The crime rate in Arkansas has seen a steady increase over the last several years. In 2010 the violent crime rate in the state was more than ten percent higher than the national average while the property crime rate was nearly twenty-five percent higher. The population in Arkansas in 2013 is just over 2,900,000 with the year-to-date combined total number of violent and property crimes standing at 124,424. That works out to an average of more than 42 crimes committed per one thousand residents. With this much criminal activity being perpetrated throughout Arkansas there is a need for qualified and competent 9-1-1 dispatchers to assist residents who are victims of, or witnesses to, such activity.
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Arkansas has seen a fluctuation in the number of 9-1-1 calls dialed in the state over the years. For example, in 2000 there were 17,659 emergency calls placed in the state. This number spiked in 2003 with 21,341 calls, and reached its lowest point in the decade with 16,538 calls in 2010.
The day-to-day work of a 9-1-1 dispatcher in Arkansas is rewarding but presents a number of unique challenges for the dispatchers themselves. For this reason those with a college degree are considered to be best prepared to handle the challenges of the job. Many of the calls that 9-1-1 dispatchers receive are from individuals who are in the midst of a frightening or even life-threatening situation, and any mistakes can be deadly. For example, earlier this year, an Arkansas woman was driving with her five-year-old son when she lost control of her vehicle on a patch of ice and drove into a pond. The woman used her cell phone to call 911 and the operator contacted an ambulance as the woman frantically gave information about her situation and location. However, the operator neglected to contact police and firefighters, and it wasn’t until more than 40 minutes later that they were alerted and dispatched once the ambulance crew called to confirm that they were on their way.
Preparing for a Career in Arkansas’s Emergency Dispatch Centers
While there are no specific requirements for becoming a 911 dispatcher in Arkansas, a bill was recently passed into law that makes minimum training available for prospective dispatchers throughout the state. While this training is not mandatory to becoming a 911 operator, the state requires that the training be available to those who want to take advantage of it.
In addition to this focused training, however, it is highly recommended that prospective dispatchers earn a college degree in an area of study relevant to the job. Some of these degree programs are offered at colleges and universities around the state of Arkansas and include such as areas of study as:
- Crisis Management
Arkansas relies on local governments to set their own standards as it relates to 9-1-1 operator jobs. This means that the requirements in one city may vary from the requirements in another. However, one should expect to find some commonalities.
There are a number of law enforcement agencies in Arkansas that may hire 9-1-1 operators. Some of the largest include:
- Little Rock Police Department – Little Rock is the most populated city in Arkansas, with a population of about 193,000 people. The city is small for a major city, but with a past that includes significant gang activity, Little Rock has seen significant 9-1-1 activity over the years.
- Fort Smith Police Department – This city has a population of 86,000 people and is the second largest in Arkansas by population.
- Fayetteville Police Department – Fayetteville has a population of about 74,000 people and is the third largest city in Arkansas.
Join Local and National NENA Organizations
Those interested in becoming a 9-1-1 dispatch agent in Arkansas should familiarize themselves with the emergency communications industry as a whole by keeping up with local, national, and international emergency contact groups. Some of these groups include:
- The Arkansas APCO. The Arkansas APCO works to coordinate and modernize emergency communications across the state.
- The National Emergency Number Association. This group works to coordinate and modernize emergency communications across the country, including making emergency dial services available from voice over IP and remote cell phones.
- The International Academies of Emergency Dispatch. The IAED works to bring the technology of emergency dial to countries across the world, and push for international standards.