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Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Education, Health, Society | 5 comments

Job Description of a 911 Dispatcher: A Complicated Job, Far More than Answering Phone

I think well trained Dispatchers are in fact, multi-talented people who know about de-escalating situations when possible, and getting the stock rolling to help whenever possible.

I just bolded aspects of the job I found interesting, or hadnt known about or understood before. Yours might be similar or different…

The Job

The Emergency Dispatcher receives complaints from public concerning crimes and police emergencies. Then the Emergency Dispatcher broadcasts orders to police patrol units in vicinity of complaint to investigate. They operate radio, telephone, or computer equipment to receive reports of fires and medical emergencies and relay information or orders to proper officials.

Tasks for Emergency Dispatcher

The Emergency Dispatcher questions callers to determine their locations, and the nature of their problems to determine type of response needed.
The Emergency Dispatcher receives incoming telephone or alarm system calls regarding emergency and non-emergency police and fire service, emergency ambulance service, information and after hour’s calls for departments within a city.
The Emergency Dispatcher determines response requirements and relative priorities of situations, and dispatch units in accordance with established procedures.
The Emergency Dispatcher records details of calls, dispatches, and messages.
The Emergency Dispatchers enters, updates, and retrieves information from teletype networks and computerized data systems regarding such things as wanted persons, stolen property, vehicle registration, and stolen vehicles.
The Emergency Dispatchers maintains access to, and security of, highly sensitive materials.
The Emergency Dispatchers relay information and messages to and from emergency sites, to law enforcement agencies, and to all other individuals or groups requiring notifications.
The Emergency Dispatcher scans status charts and computer screens, and contacts emergency response field units to determine emergency units available for dispatch.
The Emergency Dispatcher observes alarms registers and scan maps to determine whether a specific emergency units available for dispatch.
The Emergency Dispatcher maintains files of information relating to emergency calls such as personnel rosters, and emergency call-out and pager files.

The Emergency Dispatcher needs knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.

The Emergency Dispatcher needs knowledge of transmission, broadcasting, switching, control, and operation of telecommunications systems.

The Emergency Dispatcher needs knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property and institutions.

The Emergency Dispatcher needs knowledge of the structure and content of the English language ( and/or other language) including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.

The Emergency Dispatcher needs the knowledge of administrative and clerical procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and other office procedures and terminology.

The Emergency Dispatcher needs knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.

The Emergency Dispatcher needs knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

The Emergency Dispatcher needs knowledge of media production, communication, and dissemination techniques and methods. This includes alternative ways to inform via written, oral, and visual media.

The Emergency Dispatcher needs knowledge of human behavior and performance, individual differences in ability, personality, and interests, learning and motivation, psychological research methods, and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.

The Emergency Dispatcher needs knowledge of principles and methods for describing the features of land, sea, and air masses, including their physical characteristics, locations, interrelationships, and distribution of plant, animal, and human life.

The Emergency Dispatcher must give full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

The Emergency Dispatcher must be able to talk to others to convey information effectively. They also must be able to adjust actions in relation to others’ actions.

The Emergency Dispatcher must be capable of using sound logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

The Emergency Dispatcher must actively look for ways to help people. They need to be aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.

The Emergency Dispatcher monitors their performance to make improvements on how they can improve their job functions. The Emergency Dispatcher understands written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.

The Emergency Dispatcher should understand the implications of new information for both current and future problem solving and decision making.

The Emergency Dispatcher must be able to identify complex problems and review related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.


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Copyright 2012 The Moderate Voice
  • SteveK

    dr.e – Thank you for this excellent series of articles on 911 / Emergency Dispatchers.

    Having had personal Emergency Dispatch experience I tried to tone down one commenter who thought they are little more than “$12 hr. operators”… I failed.

    Hopefully your well rounded overview of what the job entails will let a little light shine through to those unaware of what an important, though often ignorantly underrated, job it is.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    thanks Steve. I saw that there’s a six month required training, then a several months long hands on internship, then the E.D.’s for another month working with supervision, then continuing ed. I noticed too there are yearly fees to keep one’s license as an ED, depending on the state: $50-100 dollars. I know saw the same $12 comment and knew that was incorrect, but too, the breadth and depth of the idea of ED taught me some new things too. One thing I thought was how challenging it can/ must be to keep your mind on ten things at once to move the call and response forward… ACCURATELY. I would think ED is a high stress job, not just ‘answering the phone’ as some have erroneously portrayed it. Can there be incompetent EDs? Sure, just like lawyers, doctors, people in the trades. That ED’s do the job to 10+ daily most places, seems amazing to me. Thanks again SK, and some day write an article for us about ED and how you experienced it. I’d be interested in reading such.

  • Thanks. I have friends who work in emergency response – it’s not just answering a phone as some have implied in their comments.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    thanks kathy. my regards to your friends in E. Response. Such an important work.

  • EEllis

    I know saw the same $12 comment and knew that was incorrect,

    Actually it wasn’t incorrect, starting pay for 911 in my city is $12.06 and you could find lower. Of course there have been numerous issues with 911 in Houston and the 911 system isn’t particularly well regarded but that was part of my point. That doesn’t mean there are not highly trained and skilled operators but not every one is of the same quality.

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