How to Become a 911 Dispatcher in San Jose, California

San Jose, the third largest city in California, is known as the “Capital of Silicon Valley.” San Jose has 9-1-1 dispatchers that serve the police (SJPD) and the fire department (SJFD) communication centers independently. Police dispatchers initially answer 9-1-1 calls and immediately transfer all fire or medical related problems to the SJFD.

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You will need to take the following steps to become a 9-1-1 dispatcher in San Jose:

Get a Good Education
Decide Between the SJPD or the SJFD
Meet Requirements for SJPD or SJFD Dispatcher Jobs
Complete the San Jose Application Process
Fulfill Training Requirements and Go to Work in San Jose



Step 1. Get a Good Education

Dispatch operators in San Jose are only required to have a high school education; however, you will give yourself a significant advantage if you earn an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as criminal justice, homeland security, public safety or emergency management. Fire science or fire safety would be excellent majors to prepare for work with the SJFD.  San Jose has more than 15 colleges/universities to choose from or you can elect to earn a degree from an accredited online school.



Step 2. Decide Between the SJPD or the SJFD

The San Jose Police Department Communications Center operates 24 hours/day, 365 days/year. The staff includes 133 Public Safety Radio Dispatchers/Public Safety Communications Specialists and 21 supervisors.  In 2007, SJPD dispatchers answered over 260,823 landline and 139,332 wireless 9-1-1 calls, with an answering time of 3.8 seconds. Dispatchers answer both 9-1-1 and 3-1-1 calls; the latter consist of such non-emergency police problems as noisy parties, abandoned vehicles or minor vehicle accidents. Using a computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system, dispatchers interpret and verify the information and either transfer the call to the SJFD or dispatch the appropriate police unit to the scene. SJPD dispatchers work 10-hour shifts, four days a week, followed by three consecutive days off.

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The San Jose Fire Department Communications Center has been recognized as an “Accredited Center of Excellence” by the National Academy of Emergency Dispatch, an honor given to only 104 communications centers worldwide. The SJFD Center operates 24/7 with 46 employees, 30 of whom are Public Safety Dispatchers who determine the nature and severity of the call and dispatch the appropriate fire/medical units from San Jose’s 31 fire stations. They track the status of all fire units in the city. In 2005-06 SJFD dispatchers answered approximately 146,800 calls. They work mostly nine-hour shifts and have rotating two- and three days off.

State-of-the art equipment includes a fully computerized positron 911 telephone system and a new Intergraph CAD system with Fire Priority and Medical Priority software that results in zero response time. The sophisticated system provides the targeted fire station with a vocal and printed description of the emergency, activates bells and lights, and even turns off the station stove.



Step 3. Meet requirements for SJPD or SJFD Dispatcher Jobs

Requirements for a job as a 9-1-1 dispatcher job with either the SJPD or SJFD include:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • U.S, citizen or holder of permit to work in this country
  • A score of 55 or better on the Peace Officer Standardized Training (P.O.S.T.) Public Safety Dispatcher examination (offered in San Jose at the South Bay Regional Public Safety Training Consortium Academy).
  • Willing to work shifts and mandatory overtime
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Ability to remain calm and controlled under pressure
  • Active listener; reliable
  • Able to work in a confined area and with a team
  • Proficient typist

SJPD experience requirement:

  • One year experience  processing or dispatching information at a call center or radio dispatch center OR
  • Three years experience working in a public contact job

SJFD experience and additional requirements:

  • Three years working in a job requiring constant customer contact
  • Willing to wear a uniform while on the job



Step 4. Complete the San Jose Application Process

Applications for public safety dispatcher jobs with either the SJPD or the SJFD must be processed through the City of San Jose employment center. Their website lists open positions and provides online application forms. The following phases are involved in the application process for both the SJPD and the SJFD:

  • Pass a SJPD or SJFD background check
  • Successfully pass a computer practical exam (covers data entry, multi-tasking abilities, reading comprehension and map reading)
  • Complete personal history questionnaire
  • Oral board interview

Additional phases in the SJFD application process:

  • Polygraph examination
  • Selection interview with fire department personnel
  • Mandatory “sit-along” with a SJFD dispatcher



Step 5. Fulfill Training Requirements and Go to Work in San Jose

Police and fire dispatchers both receive extensive on-the-job training under the guidance of an experienced 9-1-1 dispatcher before being allowed to handle calls on their own. There is also a one-year probationary period. In addition, the SJFD requires recruits to earn Emergency Fire and Emergency Medical Dispatcher certifications which include formal classroom study and on-the-job training.

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Annual SJPD salaries in San Jose are:

  • Trainees – $53,144.00
  • Public Safety Radio Dispatchers – $59,030.40 to $71,700.00

Annual SJFD salaries in San Jose are:

  • Trainee – $60,216.00 to $73,195.20
  • Senior public safety dispatcher – $65,286.40 to $83,096.00

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