What does an Emergency Dispatcher do?
Police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers answer calls for emergency, non-emergency, and alarm calls from people who need help from firefighters, police, emergency services, or a combination of the three. Dispatchers work in emergency communication centers and must be available around the clock. It would be common to work evenings, week-ends, and holidays with long shifts and overtime. This career may be stressful due to alarming situations and the need to respond quickly.
How to become a Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatcher
Police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers are typically required to have a high school diploma or the equivalent with many states requiring training and certification. Candidates must pass a typing test and written exam and it may be required to pass drug tests, lie detector tests, hearing and vision screening, and a background test.
Most states require proof of U.S. Citizenship and sometimes a valid driver’s license. One with experience in customer service and using computers may have an advantage when competing for a job and the ability to speak Spanish is also desirable.
Each state may have different requirements for training. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO International) can provide a list of states requiring training and certification. Some agencies use their own programs for certification while others may use a professional association. Training is often conducted in a classroom, on-the-job, and followed by a 1 year probationary period.
Training covers a wide range of topics, like standard procedures, agency protocols, and local geography. He or she is also taught to use specialized equipment and computer systems. Dispatchers are also trained to prepare for high-risk situations, like suicidal callers and child abductions.
Job Description of a Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatcher
The duties of a police, fire, and ambulance dispatcher include answering emergency and non-emergency calls and alarm systems calls. They determine what type of emergency it is, it’s location, and send the appropriate response based on agency procedures. They must communicate clear information to the appropriate first-responder agency and coordinate the dispatch of emergency response personnel to accident scenes.
He or she must give basic over-the-phone medical instructions when necessary before emergency personnel arrive on the scene. A dispatcher provides advice to callers on how best to remain safe while waiting for assistance. They must monitor and track the states of fire, police, and ambulance units and synchronize responses with other area communication centers. All dispatchers must have a detailed record of information of all calls received.