When looking at how to become a 911 dispatcher in Saint Petersburg-Pinellas County, you’ll first need to determine whether you want to be a police dispatcher or a fire/medical dispatcher. Police dispatchers are hired through and serve the City of Saint Petersburg, while emergency fire/medical dispatchers are employed through Pinellas County and are the first professionals to answer the phone anytime there is a 911 call for help from anywhere in the county.
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If you are ready to make yourself into a competitive applicant and begin an extended training program, then review the following steps involved in becoming a 911 Dispatcher in Saint Petersburg-Pinellas County:
|Increase Your Qualifications|
|Apply with the City or County|
|Participate in the Required Training|
|Maintain Your Qualifications|
While deciding on your career path consider these statistics:
- Police Emergency Radio Dispatcher salary starts at $36,649.60 per year
- Pinellas County 911 Public Safety Telecommunicators earn a minimum of $31,170.60 per year
- Dispatchers at the Pinellas County Communications Center are the first to answer any 911 call made in the entire county, which total more than 570,000 annually
- The Saint Petersburg Police Department’s Emergency Communications Division received 399,674 calls for service last year, with 76,293 of those being 911 emergencies
- The Pinellas County Communications Center transfers law enforcement emergency calls to 10 different agencies within its territory and dispatches for 19 different fire departments
Step 1. Increase Your Qualifications
A good strategy for increasing the competitiveness of your candidacy is to obtain a college degree that is relevant to the field of 911 dispatching. In the case of becoming a fire/medical dispatcher this can fulfill one of your pre-employment requirements, and for either position having a degree will always distinguish you from your competitors who do not.
With a variety of educational options available online and two colleges located in Saint Petersburg, you will be able to find programs such as:
- Law Enforcement, with courses including patrol procedures and criminal investigations
- Communications, covering material such as intercultural communication and effective listening
- Homeland Security or Emergency Management, including disaster operations, organization, and recovery
- Criminal Justice, with courses covering class, race, gender, and response to crime
Having a college degree can not only help you in your initial employment application, it can also make it easier for you to climb the promotional career ladder and provide you with more options in the future.
Step 2. Apply with Saint Petersburg or Pinellas County
Once you are convinced you have obtained enough 911 operator training to make a winning application you are ready to apply. By this point you should have a solid idea which path you are interested in pursuing:
- Emergency Radio Dispatcher with the Saint Petersburg Police Department
- 911 Public Safety Telecommunicator I at the Pinellas County Communications Center
Police Dispatcher – Although you will be working with the police department, your first step in the application process will be to fill out a standard city employment application. Next, if your application looks good, you will be requested to submit a Pre Employment Personal History Questionnaire.
If your application is still deemed relevant after review of this you will next need to pass the CritiCall skills assessment test. If you are among the top scorers and you additionally make it through an interview process, you will be requested to complete a final Personal History Questionnaire and proceed through the rest of the hiring process which includes:
- Polygraph exam
- Background investigation
- Written and in-person psychological exam
Keep in mind that you can only apply for 911 jobs in Saint Petersburg when there are vacancies. The police department will post any open dispatcher positions on its website.
Fire/Emergency Dispatcher – Any vacant 911 dispatcher jobs in Pinellas County are posted online, and you will need to first register with the county before you can complete an application over the web. The county only accepts online applications and only when the position is vacant. To be notified when there are openings you can sign up to receive notification. Along with your application you will also be asked to complete a supplemental questionnaire.
Step 3. Participate in the Required Training
When evaluating how to make yourself a more attractive applicant, a good starting point is to research the following 911 dispatcher training you will be required to obtain after you are hired. To start with, whether you are interested in working as a police or fire/medical dispatcher, your hiring agency must provide you with the resources to become a Certified Public Safety Telecommunicator (PST), as per Florida law. The Saint Petersburg Police Department provides this through its Emergency Radio Dispatcher Academy which is two weeks of classroom education followed by training on-the-job.
PST Certification courses must provide at least 232 hours of instruction and cover areas such as:
- Communication equipment and resources
- Emergency management practices
- Stress management techniques
- Telecommunicator ethics
- Interpersonal skills
Specific requisite before-hire and preferred training for the respective 911 dispatcher positions includes:
- Saint Petersburg Police Department Dispatcher:
- Pinellas County Communications Center Fire/Medical Dispatcher:
- Six months of related experience or education and training (required)
- Knowledge of county geography (required) and experience with GPS mapping (preferred)
- Be aware that Pinellas County Emergency Medical Services use guidelines for emergency medical dispatch from the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch (preferred)
Step 4. Maintain and Grow Your Credentials
Your employing agency will keep you up to date on what you need to do to maintain your Public Safety Telecommunicator (PST) Certification, which will involve:
- Obtaining 20 hours of approved PST continuing education before February 1st of odd-numbered years
- Submitting a renewal form and a $50 renewal fee to the Florida Department of Health
You can always stay current with the latest 911 dispatcher-related developments by attending educational and training opportunities hosted by the following agencies; this is a good way to ensure you stay competitive within your field and improve upon your growing experience:
- Florida Emergency Preparedness Association
- Pinellas Emergency Management
- Florida Chapter of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials
- Saint Petersburg Police Homeland Preparedness
- Florida Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association
- University of South Florida Saint Petersburg Safety Preparedness