Job Duties of 911 Dispatchers

The 911 dispatcher is often the unsung professional of the emergency response team. These professionals, who gather essential information from callers and dispatch the appropriate first responders to the scene, must be able to take control of situations that may chaotic, heart-wrenching, stressful, confusing, and frenzied.

They must be organized, adept at multi-tasking, level-headed, and trustworthy. Their work within emergency response services often places them in the middle of life or death situations, so requirements and training for these positions are often stringent, rigorous and unwavering.

A General Statement of Responsibilities and Essential Job Functions

The job description for a 911 dispatcher may differ slightly based on the position: Dispatcher I, Dispatcher II, Dispatcher III (supervisory), etc., which influence the job responsibilities associated with the position.

911 dispatchers must respond to emergency and non-emergency calls for assistance and information. They must provide dispatch and communication support services for police, fire, emergency, and related services.

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Essential job functions within a 911 dispatcher’s job description will likely detail the daily duties associated with the position, which may include the following:

  • Operate a multi-line telephone console system, alerting system, and TDD system for the deaf and hearing-impaired
  • Translate information to the appropriate codes
  • Determine and assign the level of priority of the call and enter the data into a computer-aided dispatch system for radio dispatch purposes
  • Perform emergency medical dispatch and crisis intervention services
  • Ask vital questions and provide pre-arrival instructions for emergency medical calls
  • Monitor and operate a radio console and computer equipment
  • Receive and respond to a variety of emergency and non-emergency services and complaints
  • Ask questions to interpret, analyze and anticipate the caller’s situation as to resolve problems, provide information, dispatch emergency services, or refer callers to other agencies
  • Dispatch and coordinate the responses of public safety agencies
  • Identify appropriate number and type of equipment or apparatus to dispatch
  • Enters and modifies information into local, state and national computer databases
  • Monitor and respond to a variety of technical systems and alarms


Required Knowledge

A 911 operator job description will likely be very specific about the knowledge required to adequately perform the job. As such, required knowledge is an important aspect of any 911 dispatcher job description.

911 dispatchers must generally have knowledge in:

  • Safety and Security: Candidates must have knowledge of rules, regulations, and procedures, including safety procedures, such as CPR and first aid. Policies and procedures may refer to department policies and procedures related to emergency communications and disaster and special response plans.
  • Customer Service: Candidates must have knowledge of providing excellent customer service.
  • Telecommunications: Candidates must have knowledge of telecommunications systems, which may include transmission, broadcasting, and switching systems, and computerized databases, including teletype operations and procedures. Further, they must understand basic dispatch codes, as well as standard abbreviations and industry terminology commonly used by emergency medical services and law enforcement agencies.
  • Geography: Candidates must understand jurisdictional boundaries, as well as thoroughfares, landmarks, public buildings and waterways within the jurisdiction.


Required Skills

Required skills in a 911 dispatcher job description usually refer to both acquired skills and individual traits. It is therefore common to find the following required skills for 911 dispatchers:

  • The ability to develop and maintain cooperative and professional relationships with fellow employees, representatives from other departments, and supervisors
  • The ability to use logic and reasoning to reach conclusions and approaches to problems
  • The ability to use judgment and decision-making skills to evaluate situations, establish priorities, and resolve matters
  • The ability to think quickly
  • The ability to work under stressful situations
  • The ability actively listen and communicate effectively through clear speech and hearing
  • The ability to follow instructions
  • The ability to write clearly and spell correctly
  • The ability to establish priorities an pass on information as needed


Minimum Requirements for Employment

Individuals applying for entry-level 911 dispatcher jobs must meet a specific set of requirements as set forth by the hiring agency. As such, these requirements are clearly outlined in a general job description.

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For most emergency dispatcher positions, candidates must be at least 18 years old, and they must possess a high school diploma or GED.  Many agencies require dispatchers to possess a valid driver’s license and to not have any felony convictions.

Candidates for these positions must also expect to undergo a background investigation that meets all local, state and federal requirements, as well as a polygraph examination, drug screen, and physical examination, which may include both a vision and hearing test. This type of pre-employment testing is usually completed before a job offer is extended.

Another minimum requirement for employment for a 911 dispatcher includes the completion of a comprehensive training program during the first year of employment. This often includes classroom training and extensive, on-the-job training.

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