How to Become a 911 Dispatcher in North Carolina

The North Carolina 911 Board, which was enacted in August 2007, is charged with overseeing the State’s 911 emergency services. The 911 Board is also responsible for developing and updating the 911 State Plan and establishing policies and procedures regarding advisory services and training for the state’s Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs),which stretch from Durham to Fayetteville, to Cary, High Point, and Wilmington.

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As of June 30, 2012, the North Carolina 911 Board was responsible for 125 PSAPs in the state, which included the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian Reservation. Within North Carolina, PSAPs may be operated and managed by a number of governing authorities:

  • There are 42 PSAPs under city/county management (stand-alone).
  • There are 49 PSAPs under law enforcement (police/sheriff).
  • There are 35 PSAPs under emergency services.
  • There are 2 PSAPs under IT.
  • There is one PSAP under a tax department/sheriff’s office split.

The largest PSAPs in the State of North Carolina are:


Preparing for a 911 Dispatcher Career in North Carolina

The North Carolina 911 Board has implemented minimum qualification and training standards for 911 operators. Individuals who want to learn how to become a 911 operator (also referred to as telecommunicators, emergency communications specialists, 911 communications call takers, or emergency dispatchers) must:

  • Be a United States citizen
  • Be a high school graduate (or possess a GED)
  • Have a good moral character
  • Have no felony convictions or other convictions that resulted in imprisonment of more than 2 years

Further, candidates for 911 operator jobs in North Carolina must be prepared to undergo fingerprinting, a background investigation, and drug screening.

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Many candidates for 911 dispatcher jobs choose to pursue an associate’s or bachelor’s degree as to prepare themselves for this demanding position and any opportunities for advancement that may present themselves.

Individuals may pursue a number of 2- or 4-year degree programs in fields such as:

  • Psychology
  • Public Safety
  • Homeland Security
  • Emergency Management
  • Criminal Justice
  • Communications
  • Computer Science

A degree in psychology, for example, often provides a solid framework for 911 dispatchers when communicating with the public, as it includes work in topics such as:

  • Psychological research
  • Biology
  • Behavior
  • Human relations
  • Social psychology
  • Abnormal psychology
  • Psychology of personality


In-Service Dispatcher Training in North Carolina

An important component to any 911 dispatcher career is training; specifically, initial training and ongoing, in-service training.

All 911 dispatcher in North Carolina, according to the standards of the 911 Board, must successfully complete a basic telecommunicator class that is at least 40 hours in length within the first year of employment with a PSAP. The basic telecommunicator class must be certified by a North Carolina State or nationally recognized Emergency Services organization.

Upon completion of the course, which must include at least 8 hours of practical, hands-on training, new 911 operators must pass a qualified exam to certify their competency to work.

The curriculum of the basic telecommunicator class must include the following topics:

  • Interpersonal Communications
  • Telecommunicator Role in Public Safety
  • Overview of the Police Function
  • Overview of the Fire Function
  • Overview of the EMS Function
  • Telecommunications Systems and Equipment Telephone
  • Call Processing: Reception, Prioritization, and Resource Allocation
  • Call Classifications
  • Radio Technologies Radio Techniques, Rules, and Procedures
  • National Incident Management System (NIMS)

All 911 operators in the State of North Carolina must complete at least 16 hours of continuing education on an annual basis, with at least 8 hours focusing on a topic specific to a recommendation by the Board.

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911 operators in North Carolina often pursue membership in the North Carolina Telecommunicator Emergency Response Team (TERT) as to show their commitment to the profession and help TERT carry out its mission of promoting research, planning, training and education in the field of emergency communications.

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