How to Become a 911 Dispatcher in Montana

Montana sees a lower rate of murders, robberies, burglaries, and assaults than the national average, but surprisingly sees a much higher rate of sexual assaults.  In 2011 alone there were over 5600 DUI convictions in the state, and 38 percent of all traffic deaths came as a result of DUI. Taking these facts into account it is clear that 9-1-1 operators in Montana are likely to see a mixture of car accidents and other accidents, rescues, and even some violent incidents.

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What it Takes to Become a 911 Operator in Montana

The best way to prepare for a career as a 9-1-1 dispatcher in Montana is to obtain a college degree in a relevant field, though it is rarely a minimum requirement. But considering that Montana’s college graduation rate rose from 37.1 percent in 2009 to 40.3 percent in 2010, and continues to trend upward, the job market in the state is becoming increasingly difficult for non-college grads. With an unemployment rate of just 5.3 percent, any applicant in Montana looking to get into the competitive field of 9-1-1 dispatch should certainly consider a degree as a way to stand out.

Some degree programs in Montana that apply to the field of 9-1-1 dispatch include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Bachelor of Science in Medicine
  • Bachelor of Science in Communications

There are a number of professional skills that a 9-1-1 operator in Montana will need to possess before applying for the job, or develop very quickly once on the job. These include:

  • Rapid decision making
  • Attention to detail
  • Clear communication skills
  • Empathy for the caller
  • Non-judgmental attitude
  • Good memory
  • Active Listening skills

In recent times there have been numerous situations where recordings of 9-1-1 operators misbehaving on the job have been made public. This has included laughing while callers are on the phone having an emergency, and forgetting to input information into the system needed to dispatch police. Development of these skills will ensure the applicant does not experience similar mishaps.

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Largest 9-1-1 Dispatch Employers in Montana

Those interested in becoming a 9-1-1 operator in Montana should contact the hiring municipality directly.

The biggest hiring agencies in the state include:

  • Billings Police Department –  Billings has a population of about 107,000 people and is the most populous city in Montana.
  • Missoula Police Department –  Missoula is the second largest city in Montana with about 69,000 residents.
  • Great Falls Police Department –  Great Falls is the third largest city in the state with a population of about 59,000 people.

Every municipality in Montana is responsible for qualifying its own 9-1-1 emergency dispatch agents. However, there can be many requirements that are the same or similar from one department to the next.

Consider the requirements to become a 9-1-1 trainee in Billings, a position with a starting salary of $11.74 per hour:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Typing at 40 wpm or higher
  • Accurate keystroke data entry of 97 keystrokes per minute

Upon selection and completion of a 16 week training program the new hire is moved to a pay of $13.87. The maximum pay for this position is $22.03

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Local and National NENA Organizations

There are a number of organizations on both the state and national levels which are dedicated to the advancement of the field of emergency contact. These kinds of organizations are largely responsible for the fact that there are more or less standardized 9-1-1 emergency contact services throughout every state in the union. It is a good idea to join with these organizations such as:

  • The Montana NENA is responsible to coordinate, on a state level, all the 9-1-1 services for Montana. They are the reason that there is a uniform emergency dial number which works throughout the state.
  • The National Emergency Number Association is similar to Montana’s NENA, but works on the level of the country as a whole. They are the reason why 9-1-1 is an emergency number in all U.S. states, operating in a uniform and reliable fashion.

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