How to Become an Emergency Dispatcher
An emergency dispatcher receives calls to emergency phone lines, such as 911, from people in a crisis, and then dispatches emergency services such as police, firefighters, and ambulances to the scene. If you're calm in a crisis, a good communicator, and have a strong attention to detail then you might like to become an emergency dispatcher.
When you become an emergency dispatcher, your job is a challenging one. You'll need to be able to communicate with people who are often under very stressful situations or may be unintelligible. You'll also need to be able to think on your feet, and solve problems as they arise. Emergency dispatchers are sometimes known as public safety dispatchers or 911 operators.
Education Requirements to Become an Emergency Dispatcher
The requirements to become an emergency dispatcher are different in every state. In most places the educational requirement is a high school diploma or a GED. The hiring procedure is quite stringent, and you will need to pass a range of tests before you can gain a role as an emergency dispatcher.
A good place to start is by finding out what the process is in your own state. You can find some information on state-specific requirements at the Association of Public Safety Officials website.
To begin with, you'll need to submit a job application for the role. Applicants are screened, both via their application and through an interview process. If you are successful during the interview process, you will need to pass medical and psychological screening. In some states you are required to take a polygraph test also. A criminal check will be done, if you have any felony charges you will not be employed as an emergency dispatcher.
Once you become an emergency dispatcher you will start on the job training, and this takes between three and six months to complete.
Emergency Dispatcher Job Description
When you become an emergency dispatcher, your role will be to take phone calls from an emergency line such as 911. You will communicate with the caller, and take down details of their situation and emergency. If appropriate, you will contact emergency personnel such as ambulance, police or fire fighters to respond.
Often an emergency dispatcher provides assistance to a caller over the phone. This assistance could be simply helping the caller to calm down. It might be first aid advice, or other information which can help the caller.
Often an emergency dispatcher has to judge the urgency of a call. For instance, someone may call 911 because they have spotted a snake in a park. This call would be redirected to pest control in the area, while other situations may be a fire or a traffic accident where the police or fire stations will be alerted.
Record keeping is also important in this role, data entry is essential for all calls. Some calls are later used in court, or even on reality TV shows.
This can be a stressful job. It's important that you be able to leave your work at work, and not take the stress of the role home at the end of the day. This role has a high turnover, as many people find the work difficult after some time. An emergency dispatcher often works varied shifts, and you could be working at night, or the weekends or on holidays.
Emergency Dispatcher Salary and Career Path
When you become an emergency dispatcher, you will work in an office. Most work forty hours a week, but quite a lot of emergency dispatchers work part-time also. The average salary of an emergency dispatcher is $33,000 a year.
With experience, you could go on to work a supervisory position within an emergency dispatch area. You might go on to train as a paramedic, to work within law enforcement, or within health and medicine.
You can look forward to excellent job security, as growth in this industry is quite strong. A high turnover means that there are plenty of chances for employment.
Some similar roles to that of an emergency dispatcher are:
- Air traffic controller
- Customer service representative
- Call center operator
- Police officer
- Dispatcher (non emergency)
While working as an emergency dispatcher can be stressful, it's also a rewarding job that allows you to make a positive contribution to your community. Job prospects are good and there is lots growth in this industry with many areas to can move into with some experience under your belt.
*Salary Information provided by the Bureau Of Labor Statistics