In New Orleans, the Orleans Parish Communications District (OPCD) has an unusual role in public safety. It was created by the state legislature in the 1980s to provide the infrastructure for the parish’s 911 system. The OPCD provides the building and equipment for complaint operators and dispatchers to take 911 calls. Other agencies provide the staffing to answer and dispatch the 911 calls. They include the following:
- New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD)
- New Orleans Police Department (NOPD)
- Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
911 operators process about 50,000 calls a month in Orleans Parish. To do this requires a large number of professionals.
This is a guide of the step-by-step process to becoming a 911 dispatcher in Orleans Parish:
|Obtain the Necessary Education and Training|
|Complete the Application Process|
|Undergo On-the-Job Training|
Step 1. Obtain the Necessary Education and Training
The job description for a dispatcher position in New Orleans does not specify an educational requirement. Even though this is the case, there is heavy competition for 911 dispatcher positions and one way to stand out is to get formal training in a field related to dispatching procedures.
- Rasmussen College - Justice Studies Programs offering a wide range of industry-relevant programs
- Utica College - Online Bachelor's of Science in Criminal Justice
Getting an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in one of a variety of fields should help your chances when you apply for a position as a dispatcher. These fields include:
- Police science
- Fire science
- Criminal justice
- Emergency medical services
You can obtain these types of degrees from state schools or from online educational institutions.
Step 2. Complete the Application Process
To start out as a 911 operator in Orleans Parish, you will have to apply to the recruit positions for police and fire dispatchers. Once you have worked in a recruit position for six months, you are eligible to be promoted to a dispatcher.
Police and fire dispatcher positions are civil service jobs, and you will need to download an application at the city’s civil service website. You will have to apply in a different manner depending on whether or not you live in the New Orleans area. Detailed instructions on applying are provided on the city’s instruction page. If you are local, you will have to apply in person, while if you live elsewhere, you must mail or fax your application to the Civil Service Department.
Step 3. Undergo On-the-Job Training
Once you have been hired as recruit dispatcher, an experienced dispatcher will provide on-the-job training. He or she will train you to use the police or fire department’s automated dispatch system. You will be performing the following:
- Dispatching police or fire units
- Monitoring the computer aided dispatch system (CAD) for your agency
After you have gained experience, you will be expected to work somewhat independently.
Enhancing 911 Services in New Orleans
As cell phones have become the predominant form of communication, people more and more frequently expect to be able to contact 911 through text messaging. In the past, 911 communications systems were unable to process these types of messages.
In 2013, the OPDC installed a new computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system that is combined with a records management system. It is known as a CAD/RMS system. This agency will be the first trial location for this technology to accept information from text messages.
In addition, this system should allow 911 dispatchers to stay on the computer and control handling the calls and using the CAD system at the same time. This is projected to greatly enhance the efficiency of the 911 system in New Orleans.
An additional move that is expected to increase efficiency is to combine the dispatchers from the different agencies, so they work for one entity. This was supposed to become operational by January 2014, but has been delayed. It is projected to take place sometime in 2014.