How to Become a 911 Dispatcher in Washington, DC

911 dispatchers in Washington, DC handle the calls for police assistance in a city with one of the highest crime rates in the country. Last year Washington’s murder rate ranked eighth in the nation for cities with a population above half a million. In addition to fielding calls about crime, the DC 911 dispatcher job description also contains a mandate to answer emergency calls regarding fires and medical incidents. Besides some of the more common emergencies, DC dispatchers must also be ready in the event of a terrorist attack, or live shooter events such as the one that recently occurred at the Washington Navy Yard.

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Researching how to become a 911 operator in DC before a job interview can improve a candidate’s organization and preparation. Last year there were approximately 1,000 professionals employed in 911dispatcher jobs in DC, who earned an average salary of $44,430.

Planning Ahead for a Successful 911 Dispatcher Career in DC

Being a team member as a part of the Office of Unified Communications, the agency overseeing DC’s 911 services, requires a candidate who is qualified and ready. 911 operator training in DC involves months of work learning software programs, how to use different technological devices, and a wide variety of protocols.

Candidates who apply for emergency operator jobs already possessing certification and 911 dispatcher training in any of the following areas will effectively begin the interview process with a running start:

  • Emergency Medical Dispatching
  • CPR and CCR (Cardio-cerebral resuscitation)
  • Police Dispatching
  • National Incident Management System (NIMS)
  • Computer-Aided Dispatch

If candidates are considering studying for a degree at one of DC’s local area colleges or through online programs, there are several educational programs that are related to the emergency dispatch field to augment a résumé and lay the foundation for future promotions:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Information Technology
  • Communications
  • Psychology
  • Nursing
  • Emergency Management


What to Expect from a Career in 911 Dispatch in Washington DC

While learning about how to become a 911 dispatcher in DC, candidates will be interested to know some of the features they will be working with. Aside from the many diplomatic embassies located in the District, there are also many residents who speak a language other than English, which may seem to pose a problem. However the Office of Unified Communications has met this challenge by employing dispatchers who speak languages ranging from Korean to Spanish to Amharic. Dispatchers also have a service at their fingertips capable of connecting any caller with a translator provided by an agency with specialists in over 100 different dialects and languages.

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Besides being prepared for foreign languages, emergency operators are also prepared for grimmer situations. As unlikely as active shooter events are, 911 dispatchers are prepared for the worst, and unfortunately this training was recently put to the test during the Washington Navy Yard shooting tragedy. 911 operators received calls for over an hour from dozens of people who were providing real-time information that was immediately relayed to special law enforcement units securing the area. At all times, and especially as exemplified during this event, 911 dispatchers play a critical role in their positions, many times as DC’s first first responders.

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