New Jersey’s Office of Information Technology, Office of Emergency Telecommunications Services, oversees the state’s extensive and decentralized network of 911 emergency communication services, which includes more than 300 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and Public Safety Dispatch Points (PSDPs).
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Both public agencies and private medical centers provide 911 emergency communication services in the State of New Jersey. Compared to other states of its size, New Jersey has a large number of stand-alone dispatch centers and low-volume call centers. The Office of Emergency Telecommunications Services reports that about two-thirds of the 911 call volume throughout the state is handled by 10 percent of its call centers.
New Jersey’s 911 system is largely funded and managed at the local level, with the majority of operations taken on by municipalities, although there are a few counties that provide services to multiple municipalities. The basic infrastructure of New Jersey’s 911 emergency network is funded by the state, although management of the system are left, in large part, to the discretion of local and county officials. As such, the state has little authority regarding the location of 911 services.
Preparing for a Career in New Jersey’s Emergency Dispatch Centers
Many individuals who want to learn how to become a 911 operator first choose to pursue a college degree or certification in one of the following areas:
- Computer Science
- Criminal Justice
- Emergency Management
- Homeland Security
- Public Safety
An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in emergency management, for example, may help 911 operators better handle and understand any number of public emergency situations. Typical topics in an emergency management degree include:
- Supervision and Management
- Hazard Planning and Mitigation
- Disaster Response and Recovery
- Emergency Planning for Businesses
Individuals who want to learn how to become a 911 dispatcher in New Jersey must first ensure they meet the minimum requirements for employment, as are outlined in the state’s 911 regulation. Specifically, candidates must be able to read, write, speak, understand, and communicate in Spanish and English.
Further, they must possess at least one year of experience working in receiving, transmitting, and relating video display and/or radio messages. Their work experience must include the use of automatic number identification, video display, automatic location identification, data processing, or similar computer equipment.
911 Dispatcher Training
All public safety telecommunicators in the State of New Jersey must, under the state’s 911 regulation, must complete a basic training course approved by the Commission, which includes the following topics:
- Enhanced 911 Systems and Operating Procedures
- Interpersonal Communications
- Overview of the EMS Function
- Overview of the Fire Function
- Overview of the Police Function
- Public Safety Records Systems
- Public Safety Telecommunications Systems
- Radio Broadcasting Rules and Procedures
- Telecommunicator Role in Public Safety
- Telecommunicators Legal Issues
- Telephone Techniques
All 911 operators in New Jersey must also complete annual, in-service training following initial certification. This training consists of an 8-hour program developed by the local PSAP and approved by OERS to address technical developments and improve 911 services.
New Jersey’s Operational Dispatch System
911 operators who work for the New Jersey State Police may work through one of six operational dispatch centers:
Operational Dispatch Unit North – The ODU North, which is located in Totowa, is a centralized Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) that includes 46 trained public safety telecommunicators (911 dispatchers).
Operational Dispatch Unit South – The ODU South, which is located in Williamstown, is a Public Safety Answering Point that includes 31 trained Public Safety Telecommunicators.
Operational Dispatch Unit Central – The ODU Central, which is located in West Trenton, is a centralized Public Safety Answering Point that includes 42 trained Public Safety Telecommunicators.
Operational Dispatch Turnpike Region – The ODU Turnpike Region, which is located in Cranbury, serves as the communications hub. It is staffed with 20 Public Safety Telecommunicators.
Operational Dispatch Parkway – The ODU Parkway, which is located in Woodbridge, is a communications hub that is staffed with 26 Public Safety Telecommunicators.
In addition to the state’s operational dispatch centers, some of the largest dispatch centers in the state are located in:
- Newark Police Department
- Jersey City Police Department
- Paterson Police Department
- Elizabeth Police Department
- Edison Police Department