How to Become a 911 Dispatcher in San Francisco, California

Public Safety Dispatchers at the City and County Department of Emergency Management are the very first responders to 9-1-1 calls in San Francisco. California. These highly trained operators evaluate the nature and severity of the problem, determine the type of response needed, and dispatch police, fire and/or ambulance units to the scene of the crime, accident, fire or other emergency.

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Dispatches use a computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system to input relevant information and maintain records of all calls. When a medical emergency is involved, they also provide first-aid instructions, such as CPR or instructions on how to apply a tourniquet, to help maximize the chances of survival until an ambulance arrives. Meanwhile, another public safety dispatcher communicates with responders in the field and coordinates the status of all units to assure that the proper resources and equipment are on the scene of any and all emergencies in the San Francisco area.

The steps you need to take to become one of San Francisco’s proud and dedicated public safety dispatchers are as follows:

Get a Good Education and Meet Requirements
Complete the San Francisco Application Process
Complete New-Recruit Training in San Francisco
Go to Work in San Francisco and Participate in Continuing Education



Step 1. Get a Good Education and Meet Requirements

The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management does not require public safety dispatchers to have more than a high school education; however, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a relevant field will significantly improve both your chances of being hired and of receiving promotions in this highly competitive profession.

Since dispatchers in San Francisco handle police, fire and medical emergencies, helpful college majors include such areas of study as:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Law Enforcement
  • Homeland Security
  • Emergency Management/Disaster Management
  • Public Safety
  • Fire science
  • Security Management
  • Environmental Science

San Francisco has four public institutions of higher education, including one of the largest community colleges in the nation. The Golden Gate City also boasts roughly 23 private colleges/universities, making getting a degree convenient and affordable.

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You must meet all of the following requirements to work as a 9-1-1 dispatcher:

  • High school diploma or its equivalent
  • Two years verifiable, paid work experience in a public contact position
  • Able to type at least 40 words per minute
  • Successfully complete a background investigation
  • Pass performance, oral, psychological and medical examinations

The following knowledge and abilities are highly desirable:

  • Knowledge of emergency communication principles, practices and procedures
  •  Evaluation techniques
  • Geography of the city and county of San Francisco
  • Regulations governing emergency communications systems
  • Ability to speak and write in good English
  • Ability to interpret federal and departmental regulations
  • Ability to think/act quickly in an emergency/work under stress
  • Ability to memorize multiple names and locations

It is wise to gain some work experience before applying for the job of public safety dispatcher. Part-time or full-time work in a job that requires soliciting information by telephone, answering complaints, dispatching workers (such as for a taxi company), or dealing with the public in a fast-paced, stressful environment (such as medical receptionist) would be helpful.



Step 2. Complete the San Francisco Application Process

The application process for the position of public safety dispatcher with the Department of Emergency Management is handled by the San Francisco Department of Human Resources. Open positions, complete job descriptions and application forms are available online. If you meet the minimum qualifications and your application is accepted, you will be notified of the dates and times to take the required performance, oral, psychological and medical exams. If you pass all exams your name will be placed on an eligibility list and you will be notified when a position becomes available.



Step 3. Complete New-Recruit Training in San Francisco

All San Francisco public safety dispatchers have Emergency Police Dispatcher (EPD), Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) and Emergency Fire Dispatcher certifications from the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch. Each certification requires the successful completion of a two-week course which is combined with the other classroom and on-the-job training required of new recruits. It is noted you can attend Academy classes and earn EPD, EMD and EFD certifications on your own before applying for work. See the Academy website for dates and class sites across the country.


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Step 4. Go to Work in San Francisco and Participate in Continuing Education

The base, annual salary for Public Safety Dispatchers in San Francisco is $62,076 to $76,076 with a maximum salary of $84,448.00/year. Additional benefits include:

  • New hire bonus
  • Retirement benefits
  • Medical and dental insurance
  • Tuition reimbursement

Dispatchers are encouraged to constantly improve their education and to stay up-to-date on new rules and regulations related to emergency dispatch. In addition, all dispatchers are expected to earn California State Peace Officers Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) public safety dispatcher certification.

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