North Dakota’s Emergency Services Communications Coordinating Committee oversees North Dakota’s 23 public safety answering points (PSAPs); one of which is located in South Dakota (Sioux City is dispatched in South Dakota). Although the PSAPs consist of 23 separate systems, the Coordinating Committee ensures that they operate as a single system with 23 points of contact.
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The Coordinating Committee is responsible for serving as a governing body of a local governmental unit that has jurisdiction over an emergency services communication system.
- Red River Regional Dispatch (serves Fargo and also has obligations in Minnesota)
- Bismarck/Burleigh Combined Communications Center
- Grand Forks County 911 Public Safety Answering Point
- Ward County Emergency Management (Minot)
- Homeland Security State Radio (serves 24 counties)
Because many of the PSAPs have joined forces, from a network perspective there are just 19 PSAPs in operation.
North Dakota manages about 244,000 emergency calls each year. There are currently 257 dispatchers statewide. The largest PSAP employs 26 dispatchers, while the smallest one employs just 4. In 2012, the State’s PSAP’s dispatched a total of 708 agencies.
Preparing for a Career as a 911 Dispatcher in North Dakota
Although becoming a 911 operator in North Dakota does not require the completion of a college program, many individuals nevertheless seek an associate’s or bachelor’s degree as as to best prepare them to advance in this field and to prepare themselves for the challenges that may present themselves when performing the duties of a 911 operator. It is common, therefore, for individuals to seek degree programs in such fields as public safety, emergency management, or communications, although degrees in criminal justice and homeland security are also quite commonplace. Many employers also note that degrees in such fields as computer science or psychology are also helpful for individuals in this profession.
A degree in emergency management is a popular degree option for 911 operators, as it provides a foundation in the many facets of emergency management, including topics such as:
- Law and Ethics for Emergency Services Personnel
- Emergency Services Management Operations and Finance
- Emergency Services Management seminar
- Management and Supervision
- Human Relations
Individuals interested in learning how to become a 911 dispatcher in North Dakota must meet minimum requirements as established by North Dakota’s Emergency Services Communications Coordinating Committee. Individuals must have the following to be eligible for a 911 dispatcher job:
- High school diploma or GED
- Valid driver’s license
- No felony convictions
Candidates must be able to pass a criminal background check and a drug screening.
On-the-job Dispatcher Training
All new 911 dispatchers in North Dakota must complete a basic training course in emergency response through the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO), such as the Public Safety Telecommunicator (PST).
The PST course, which is often sought for new employee training, includes coursework that culminates in an APCO Institute certification. Training modules within the PST program include:
- Call Classification
- Computer-Aided Dispatch and Related Technologies
- Interpersonal Communications
- Liability Issues
- NIMS Incident Command System
- Radio Technology
- Stress Management
- Telephone Communication Techniques
- Telephony Emerging Technology
- Telephony Traditional Technology
- Telephony TTY
911 dispatchers in North Dakota also often seek recognition or networking opportunities through a membership in a professional association, such as the ND911 Association.