A public safety dispatcher is the person who answers calls made to 911 for help and emergency assistance. These professionals dispatch emergency response personnel to the scene of accidents, crime scenes, fires and other emergencies and non-emergency situations. Dispatchers act as the communications hub for emergency services and must be able to quickly assess the situation and dispatch appropriate help.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public safety dispatchers can begin their careers with a high school diploma. Dispatchers receive the necessary training for their jobs through three to six months of on-the-job training. The agency reports that some states require dispatchers for police, fire and ambulance services to receive specialized training and certification from a professional association for their specific service area. A combination of training for all three professional services will help applicants perform their jobs better.
Public safety dispatchers must be organized, able to remain calm under a great deal of stress and pressure, possess the ability to access a situation quickly and use good judgment. The dispatcher must have excellent communication and people skills to relay vital information quickly and effectively.
Public safety dispatchers respond to emergency and non-emergency calls to police, fire and ambulance services. The dispatcher is responsible for determining the necessary response personnel needed for the situation and the number of units to dispatch to the scene. The dispatcher is also responsible for ensuring the remaining number of emergency personnel is accounted for and available in the event of other emergency calls. The dispatcher directs the emergency response personnel and communicates with necessary supervisors and other emergency personnel from surrounding areas or other jurisdictions. The public safety dispatcher contracts emergency airlift, police, sheriff, fire and ambulances necessary to handle the emergency and acts as the central communication point for operations.
Public safety dispatchers usually work in a secure, climate-controlled environment at a communications station outfitted with numerous electronic and communication devices to assist in monitoring and transferring information to emergency response personnel.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment opportunities for dispatchers over the decade of 2008 to 2018 should increase by approximately 18 percent, which is faster than average compared to all other employment occupations. The agency bases the projected increase on the growth and aging of the population. The agency also reports that opportunities for employment may be slower in some areas as geographical municipalities consolidate their emergency service call centers. The complexity of call center and emergency response systems utilized by dispatchers will increase, along with new developments in technology. Candidates with computer skills will have a better chance of gaining employment in this field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage during May 2008 for police, fire and ambulance dispatchers was $33,670.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Police, Fire and Ambulance Dispatchers
- Photo Credit close up of police dispatcher"s mouth image by David Smith from Fotolia.com
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