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How to Become a 911 Dispatcher in Alaska

Emergency personnel in Alaska can face long travel times to reach victims, often in adverse weather conditions and in near perpetual darkness. The state of Alaska ranks 40th on country’s crime index, with higher than average levels of violent crimes including rape and assault per capita.

9-1-1 operators in Alaska face numerous challenges, such as becoming familiar with wide ranging terrain and being able to correctly interpret people who may speak indigenous languages. Due to its terrain, Alaska attracts numerous adventure-seekers yearly, many of whom eventually need rescuing. Additionally, Alaska has the nation’s highest suicide rate and sees the nation’s highest per capita rates of binge drinking. All of these are factors contribute to increased levels of 9-1-1 calls.

Requirements to Become an Emergency Services Dispatcher in Alaska

College graduates make the best candidates for 9-1-1 operator jobs as they are more familiar with systematic problem solving. Some of the more desirable qualities in an Alaska 9-1-1 operator include:

  • Ability to work long hours.  It is very common for 9-1-1 operators to have to work long hours including on weekends and holidays. This is especially the case in situations of elevated public danger.
  • Multi-lingual.  There are numerous indigenous languages still spoken in the state of Alaska.  Depending on the location in the state, it may be beneficial to speak one or more native languages.
  • Familiarity with local terrain and landmarks.  9-1-1- operators are sometimes needed to give directions on how to arrive the location of an emergency. A good 9-1-1 agent will have a general familiarity of the layout of the jurisdiction in which they work.
  • Good leadership qualities. 9-1-1 operators are leaders in times of crises. They give instruction to people who need them most: people who are in the heat of an emergency. There is no time for equivocating as a 9-1-1 operator. For this reason good leaders may good 9-1-1 operators.

One of the better ways to stand out from the crowd as a candidate for 9-1-1 operator jobs in Alaska is to obtain a university degree. There are several programs offered at Alaska universities, community colleges, and technical institutes that can be of significant help in preparing applicants for a career in 9-1-1 dispatch. Some of the relevant programs include:

  • Bachelors of Science in Psychology
  • Coursework in Information Technology
  • Bachelors of Science in Communications
  • Bachelors of Science in Psychology.

The state of Alaska has decided to leave the hiring of 9-1-1 to local and city governments. This means there may be some variation between cities as to the minimum requirements to qualify to as a 9-1-1 dispatcher. However, there is a requirement that some kind of certification be administered, though the decision of which certification to administer is left to the municipality.

Major Employers of Emergency Dispatchers in Alaska

Because it is such a large state, Alaska has numerous districts where one may find employment as a 9-1-1 dispatch operator. Some of these areas include:

  • Anchorage – With a population of 291,000 in 2010, Anchorage is Alaska’s most populous city.
  • Fairbanks – With a population of 31,500 Fairbanks is situated near the center of the state of Alaska. It is the state’s second most populous area.
  • Juneau – Juneau is the capital of Alaska. With a population of 31,200 in 2010, it is practically tied with Fairbanks as the second most populous city.

An example may be instructive. In the city of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, 9-1-1 dispatch operators are paid a salary of $32.29 to $32.92 per hour, and bargain with the International Association of Firefighters. Some of the requirements to become a 9-1-1 operator in Anchorage include:

  • Must type 35 wpm and pass an assessment
  • Must complete Emergency Medical Dispatcher certification (EMD) within 3 months of hire
  • Must complete Emergency Fire Dispatcher certification (EFD) within 3 months of hire
  • Must become CPR certified by the American Red Cross within 3 months of hire.

Industry Organizations

Any applicant looking to become a 9-1-1 operator in the state of Alaska should familiarize themselves with various state, national, and international levels. These organizations work for the standardization of emergency dial services and work to help support emergency communications professionals.

  • The APCO. This Alaska organization works to support public safety communications professionals by advocating for technology and uniformed 9-1-1 systems.
  • The National Emergency Number Association. This is a national group with supports emergency communications professionals and works for the standardization of emergency dial services.
  • The International Academies of Emergency Dispatch. This group works on an international level.

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