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How to Become a 911 Dispatcher in Iowa

From flooding to tornadoes and wildfires, emergency operators in Iowa ensure help arrives anywhere in the state it’s needed. In addition to natural disasters, dispatchers also handle calls regarding criminal activity, which last year meant sending out police units to respond to the state’s 8,112 violent crimes. Candidates must be able to meet challenges as described in the 911 dispatcher job description, which can include long hours and high-stress situations, all while meeting high standards in effective communication. To face these challenges emergency agencies provide extensive 911 operator training.

Some of the largest employers and in-service training providers in the state are:

  • Des Moines Police Department Communications Section, answering 350,000 calls for service each year
  • WestCom Dispatch Center serving West Des Moines, Clive, and Urbandale, and Norwalk
  • Cedar Rapids Joint Communications Center, which recently introduced a new $130,000 medical dispatching software program
  • Scott County Emergency Communications center, serving Davenport and Bettendorf
  • Woodbury County Communications Center located in Sioux City
  • Iowa State Patrol Communications

Preparing for a Successful 911 Dispatcher Career

A key piece to becoming a 911 dispatcher in Iowa is training. New hires receive months of training before they start working independently, and job applicants who already have experience or certification will have a competitive advantage.

911 dispatcher training in Iowa includes the following:

  • National Crime Information Center
  • Iowa Crime Information Center
  • Basic Telecommunications course
  • Priority Dispatch Police
  • Priority Dispatch Fire
  • Emergency Medical Dispatch

These certifications can be obtained through agencies such as:

  • Iowa Law Enforcement Academy
  • Iowa Department of Public Safety
  • Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO)
  • Commission on Law Enforcement Accreditation (CALEA)

Applicants for 911 dispatcher jobs who are considering their long-term career options will find an advantage in the application and promotion process if they can demonstrate a high level of commitment to a related field, as evidenced by a degree in any of the following relevant subjects:

  • Emergency Management
  • Homeland Security
  • Psychology
  • Communications
  • Fire Science
  • Nursing
  • Law Enforcement

Recent Lifesaving 911 Calls in Iowa

Candidates interested in how to become a 911 operator in Iowa will also be curious about the types of calls dispatchers deal with. The following are a few snapshots:

  • An Ankeny teenager called 911 to report that while he was helping his father with an electric jackhammer his dad had stepped into a small stream and been electrocuted. The 14-year-old ran to his house and alerted emergency units who arrived five minutes later, and his father made a full recovery.
  • Paramedics were dispatched when an Ogden 911 operator received a call from a mechanic that one of his coworkers had been discovered unresponsive on the shop floor. Paramedics arrived nine minutes later allowing fellow mechanics to discontinue CPR as they applied a defibrillator to revive the man who would recover after his heart attack.
  • An Ames 911 dispatcher received a morning call from a resident who discovered a woman lying face-down on the sidewalk. The man was instructed by the dispatcher to perform CPR until an ambulance arrived. Paramedics proceeded to shock the woman’s heart until they could detect a pulse, and she was then transported to the hospital where she recovered from her heart attack.

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