A 911 dispatcher plays a key role in emergency response, as this is the person who answers the call when someone needing immediate assistance calls 911. The dispatcher's job is to keep the caller calm and collected, gain as much information as possible, and communicate it to appropriate first-responders. A good 911 dispatcher may sometimes be the difference between life and death.
The first goal of any received call for a 911 dispatcher is to gain accurate information as quickly as possible. Typically, the dispatcher may have computer equipment or GPS readouts which indicate the origins of calls, but the dispatcher will try to confirm this information, as well as obtain other details that may be necessary for police, fire, or ambulance crews. For instance, the location may be on the upper floor of a building or require entrance through a back door.
Dispatchers should also gain as much information as possible about the nature of the emergency call. They must be excellent, empathetic communicators who are able to put callers at ease in high-stress situations so all important information can be obtained.
There are no standardized educational or certification requirements for the position. In some cases, a high school diploma and on-the-job training are the basic mandate. In larger jurisdictions, employers may prefer candidates with an associate's degree or vocational certification in emergency response or a related discipline. Because 911 response is an around-the-clock system, dispatchers should expect to work in high-stress environments on morning, evening, or weekend shifts as necessary.
911 Dispatcher Tasks
Contact appropriate personnel during emergency situations.
Operate base radio to communicate with police department staff.
Greet visitors and provide directions.
Answer telephones and direct calls.
Enter dispatch calls into a computerized dispatch system.