911 Operator Certification Options and Requirements

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Initial and ongoing training is an essential component of a 911 dispatcher’s career. And the most significant training often occurs within a 911 dispatcher certification program, either through the state, through a national association, or through a combination of the two.

Some states defer basic dispatcher training to national associations, some accept national certification in lieu of state training, and some require training through one or more national associations in addition to state training.

Further, it is common for 911 dispatchers to pursue additional certification beyond state requirements so as to set themselves apart in a competitive industry and display a commitment to their professional advancement.

The major players for national 911 dispatcher certification include:

The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO)

Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) Certification

The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) provides training for the Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) designation and is based on the NHSTA’s National Standard Curriculum. Completion of this course allows students to meet the National Standard Curriculum.

Upon completion of the APCO’s EMD program, 911 dispatchers are trained to handle medical calls for assistance. Through locally approved EMD guide cards, 911 dispatchers can determine the nature and priority of the emergency call, dispatch the appropriate emergency personnel, and then provide the caller with instructions on how to treat the patient until help arrives.

The APCO customizes its EMD guide cards according to local training requirements and through APCO-certified instructors.

Topics within the EMD program include:

  • EMD Roles and Responsibilities
  • Resource Allocation
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • National and State Standards for EMD
  • Legal and Liability Issues in EMD
  • Obtaining Information from Callers
  • Stress Management
  • Quality Assurance and Recertification

To achieve EMD certification, students must have completed a 40-hour basic telecommunicator training program and possess current CPR certification from the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, or an equivalent organization.

Registered Public-Safety Leader (RPL) Certification

The APCO also offers the Registered Public-Safety Leader (RPL) certification through its Leadership Certification program. 911 dispatchers with the RPL designation become members of the APCO Institute Registry of Public-Safety Leaders, a formal acknowledgement in the emergency dispatcher industry. Topics of study within the RPL program include:

  • Communicating with authority
  • Building and managing high-performance teams
  • Breaking down barriers through interpersonal negotiations
  • Enhancing team performance
  • Leading with confidence and integrity
  • Making a difference in the APCO and in the public safety communications industry
  • Applying the skill sets to better the APCO and the public safety communications industry

Eligible candidates must be an APCO international member in good standing and must be dedicated to seeking ongoing leadership and services in the field of public safety communications.

The National Emergency Number Association (NENA)

The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) provides a number of relevant training programs for 911 dispatchers. NENA and the Education Advisory Board currently offer more than two dozen courses on a large number of operations topics concerning PSAPs and 911 technology.

One of the most popular certification programs through NENA is the Emergency Number Professional (ENP), which is designed to establish a benchmark of performance for the emergency dispatcher profession. Individuals can take ENP exams four times a year (winter, spring, summer and fall) at computer-based testing facilities throughout the United States and Canada.

Eligible candidates for ENP certification possess the following, minimum criteria, as established by the NENA Institute Board:

  • 3 years of experience in emergency communications; OR
  • 3 years of experience as a commercial provider of emergency communications products and services; AND

A total of 10 points, which can be achieved a number of ways:

  • Every year of additional experience beyond 3 years in emergency communications counts for 2 points, for a maximum of 10 points
  • Education
    • Associate degree: 2 points
    • Bachelor degree: 4 points
    • Graduate degree: 6 points
  • Professional development and service
    • NENA courses: 1 point each, for a maximum of 4 points
    • A NENA office positions at the chapter or national level: 1 point
    • Other professional certifications: 1 point

ENP certification is valid for a period of 4 years, and re-certification is achieved by completing a number of emergency communications activities, including participation in public safety conferences, emergency communications activities, and participation in NENA committees and public safety advisory boards.

The Interational Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED)

The International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED) offers a number of training and certification opportunities, including the Emergency Telecommunicator certification, the Emergency Medical Dispatcher certification, the Emergency Police Dispatcher certification, and the Emergency Fire Dispatcher certification, all of which have become standards for dispatcher training.

Emergency Telecommunicator Certification (ETC)

The Emergency Telecommunicator Certification (ETC), is a program designed specifically for new 911 dispatchers. Coursework in this certification program includes:

  • Caller Management
  • Fire Call Classification
  • Police Call Classification
  • Telecommunication Essentials
  • Emergency Telecommunication Technologies
  • The Roles and Responsibilities of the Emergency Telecommunicator
  • Quality Improvement
  • Legal Aspects of Public Safety Communication
  • Stress Management
  • Medical Call Classification
  • Manmade and Natural Catastrophic Events

Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) Certification

The Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) certification, a standard for EMD training, meets national criteria set forth by the ASTM, the National Association of ESM Physicians, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, among others. Individuals who complete the three-day EMD course are eligible for certification through the International Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatchers.

Candidates for EMD certification must be CPR-certified through the American Red Cross, the American Red Cross, or an equivalent association. Upon taking the approved EMD course, candidates must complete a 50-question written examination and achieve a score of at least 80 percent. Certification is available for a period of two years.

Emergency Fire Dispatcher (EFD) Certification

The Emergency Fire Dispatcher (EFD) certification is designed for dispatchers in the field of fire-rescue. The three-day course includes class participation, simulated and actual calls, and a variety of hands-on teaching methods. Upon completion of an approved EFD course, candidates must complete a 50-question written exam and score at least 80 percent.

Emergency Police Dispatch (EPD) Certification

The new Emergency Police Dispatch (EPD) is designed for dispatchers in law enforcement. To become EPD certified, candidates must complete a three-day course and complete a 50-question written examination, achieving a score of at least 80 percent.

Additional Certification and Accreditation Services

The IAED offers specialized certification for emergency call center managers, quality assurance personnel, instructors and executive level supervisors within police, fire and emergency medical dispatch centers:

  • Emergency Dispatch Quality Assurance Certification for Medical, Fire and Police dispatchers (ED-Q)
  • Executive Certification
  • Communication Center Manager Certification
  • Instructor Certification
    • EMD Instructor
    • EFD Instructor
    • EPD Instructor

The IAED also offers specialized Active Assailant (Shooter) of the Police Priority Dispatch System (PPDS) certification designed to prepare emergency telecommunicators to deal with calls related to indiscriminate attacks in progress. The course helps emergency dispatch personnel develop the skills necessary to respond to these uniquely challenging situations, which are often characterized by an unknown assailant, a public setting and often a large numbers of victims.

In addition to professional certification, the IAED offers accreditation services to emergency dispatch centers, conferring the respected Accredited Centers of Excellence credential to call centers that meet IAED standards.

Explore certification options and other services available through the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED).

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