How to Become a 911 Dispatcher in Wilmington, Delaware

While several agencies in New Castle County take 911 calls, the primary 911 Communications Center operates at the county level.  It is located in Wilmington and takes calls for emergencies that require police or fire assistance.  Communications specialists in New Castle County work for either the Fire/Emergency Medical Services or the Police Sections of the Emergency Communications Division.

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Follow these three steps to become a 911 dispatcher in New Castle County:

Obtain the Necessary Education
Complete the New Castle County Application Process
Undergo On-the-Job Training

Delaware citizens made over 364,000 calls to this center in 2011.  This was a 10% decrease from 2010. In 2012, New Castle County implemented a SMART911 system.  It is the first one in the state of Delaware.  This system allows citizens to provide their own safety profile to help 911 responders in case of an emergency.  Residents can provide the following types of information:

  • Number of people in the household
  • Location of bedrooms
  • Presence of pets
  • Medical conditions of anyone in the household
  • Names of medications used by household members

This system is expected to be particularly valuable if the person calling has a medical condition and is unable to speak.  In addition, if a child is missing, the parents can upload a picture to the 911 system, so a photo is available in seconds instead of hours.



Step 1.  Obtain the Necessary Education

Becoming a 911 operator is the entry-level position at New Castle County’s 911 Communications Center.  While the job requirements do not specify having a college degree, they do require a year of typing or data entry experience.  An equivalent combination of education or training can substitute for this requirement.

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If you have one year of experience taking emergency calls or working with radio communications in the fire, medical, or police services, you can apply to become a police or fire/medical communications specialist.

In addition to having this training, one way to distinguish yourself from other applicants to obtain a college degree in an area related to 911 dispatching.  Degrees in communications, police science, or criminal justice all provide training that would help you in this position.  You can obtain this type of education from schools in Delaware or from accredited online institutions.



Step 2.  Complete the New Castle County Application Process

You can apply to become a 911 operator or dispatcher when there is a job opening posted by the New Castle County Human Resources.  Instructions on how to apply online are posted on their website.

Once you have been deemed qualified to apply for the position, you will be notified about the written examination that you will have to take.  After you have passed this, you will be interviewed by a panel, including the hiring manager of the Communications Center.

After you have been selected for the position, you will be screened in the following manners:

  • Physical examination, including alcohol and drug testing
  • Psychological examination
  • Background check



Step 3.  Undergo On-the-Job Training

Emergency Call Operators –  Once you have been hired, you will be trained on the following topics to become a 911 operator:

    • Answering 911 calls
    • Transferring the appropriate to calls to a 911 dispatcher who may be a
      • Police Communications Specialist
      • Fire/Medical Communications Specialist


  • Answering non-emergency calls to the 2800 line
  • Assigning the appropriate crime code to the incident
  • Verifying the location of the emergency
  • Recording the appropriate information in the computer
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Communications Specialists –  In Delaware, 911 dispatchers are communications specialists.  They receive additional training and perform the following actions:

  • Using a computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system
  • Using an Automatic Vehicle Locater computer system

Police communications specialists are trained to use computerized information systems such as the following:

  • Delaware Justice Information System (DELJIS)
  • National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS)
  • National Crime Information Center (NCIC)

Fire/medical communications specialists are trained to perform the following types of actions:

  • Working with the Land Use Development to assign street addresses to new housing
  • Relaying mass emergency information to the news media
  • Working with the Delaware Emergency Reporting Information Network
    • Obtaining information on hazardous materials and disseminating it

You will have to complete your on the job training classes before you can work as a 911 operator or dispatcher.

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