Alabama has a crime rate higher than the national average for violent crimes including murder. This has helped earn the state a rank of 35 on the U.S. Crime Index. Interestingly, the nation’s first 9-1-1 call was placed in Alabama when the universal emergency services number was introduced in 1968. In the ensuing years, Alabama’s emergency dispatch services have grown significantly.
Educational Options for Emergency Dispatch Personnel
Local county and city law enforcement agencies look for 9-1-1 operators who can effectively assist callers in an emergency situation.
The qualities of a good 9-1-1 dispatcher include:
- Ability to give clear instructions. People calling 9-1-1 are often in frightening and dangerous situations. A competent 9-1-1 dispatcher in Alabama will be able to give the caller clear instructions on the best course of action to take, information that could be lifesaving.
- Respect for workplace guidelines and the law. 9-1-1 agents must often give advice over the phone, which could be construed by the caller as legal advice. An effective 9-1-1 dispatcher must be ready to closely follow workplace guidelines as it relates to handling calls so as to be sure to only give valid information.
- Fast thinking. The caller on the phone will often rely solely on the advice of 9-1-1 operators when making critical decisions. A 9-1-1 operator must be able to quickly assess a situation over the phone and make fast decisions as to what should be done by the caller.
- Empathy. A 9-1-1 dispatcher must truly care about the outcome of the situation. This empathy will help ensure that the agent has a vested interest in seeing the situation resolved with the best possible outcome.
- Bilingual is a plus. In areas of Alabama where there is a large population of Spanish-speaking (or another foreign language-speaking) people, it could be very important that at least some operators be bilingual.
Earning a college degree is one of the best ways to prepare for 9-1-1 dispatcher jobs in Alabama.
Some college degree programs which are relevant to the job of 9-1-1 dispatch agent include:
- Bachelor’s in Information Systems
- Bachelor’s in Communications
- Bachelor’s in Psychology
- Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice
- Associates Degree in Crisis Management
Major Employers of 911 Dispatch Personnel in Alabama
Because Alabama relies on cities and counties to employ emergency dispatch personnel, there are a number of 9-1-1 dispatch employers in the state. They include:
- Birmingham Police Department – With a population of about 1.15 million people, this is the most populous area of Alabama, and the area where most of the 9-1-1 dispatch calls will be made.
- Huntsville Police Department – This is the second largest area in Alabama with a population of about 430,000. This is a mid-sized city that sees significant 9-1-1 dispatch activity.
- Mobile Police Department – About the same size as Huntsville, Mobile is also a mid-sized city with a high level of emergency dispatch.
- Montgomery Police Department – With a population of just less than 380,000, Montgomery is the 4th largest city in Alabama by population.
As an example, the requirements to become an Emergency Communications Operator in Montgomery Alabama include:
- Ability to learn NCIC codes and procedures
- Ability to learn geography of the jurisdiction
- 6 months transmitting and receiving radio transmissions
- Ability to work night shifts, weekends, holidays and overtime.
- Ability to pass a drug test
As an example of the pay for a 9-1-1 operator in Alabama, this position (Emergency Communications Operator I) has a salary range of $24,179 to $34,419.
There are a number of local, national, and international organizations which have helped to set certain standards relating to 9-1-1 dispatch agents. They include:
- The Alabama NENA. This group works to set standards and increase the effectiveness of emergency dispatch in the state of Alabama.
- The National Emergency Number Association. This group works to set standards in the 9-1-1 emergency number field on a national level
- The International Academies of Emergency Dispatch. This group works to set international standards as it relates to emergency calls.