How to Become a 911 Dispatcher in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency maintains an E-911 telecommunication system that is designed to provide emergency services to the citizens and visitors within the state, from Allentown to Erie. In addition to maintaining a recognized 911 system and integrated wireless 911 system, PEMA serves as the oversight for the technical, planning financial, and training services and provides support for counties and cities to improve 911 services.

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PEMA reported that, as of 2012, there were 9.1 million 911 calls made, an increase from 8.9 in 2011 and 2010 and 8.7 in 2009.

911 wireless calls increased 7.4 percent between 2011 and 2012.

The Pennsylvania counties that received the highest number of 911 calls in 2012 were:

  • Philadelphia County: 3,042,281
  • Allegheny County:1,039,052
  • Delaware County: 556,632
  • Montgomery County: 358,781
  • Bucks County: 249,294
  • Lancaster County: 232,060

There are 69 public safety answering points (PSAPs) in Pennsylvania, with the largest being:


Preparing for a Career as a 911 Dispatcher in Pennsylvania

Individuals who want to learn how to become a 911 dispatcher in Pennsylvania must meet the minimum requirements for employment, which include being at least 18 years old and possessing a high school diploma or the equivalent.

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Further, candidates for 911 operator jobs should have additional training in computers, as well as emergency medical services or police or fire training. Candidates must also have at least one year of experience in communications, public safety, or EMS.

Although not expressly stated, experience in communications or public safety may be satisfied through a college degree program in one of these areas. An associate or bachelor’s degree in public safety administration or management, for example, may include study in the following topics:

  • Motivational Strategies
  • Presentation
  • Administrative Law
  • Project Management
  • Leadership
  • Management Principles
  • Strategy and Implementation
  • Human Resource Management


911 Operator Dispatcher Certification and Training

911 operators in Pennsylvania should expect to hold and maintain certification as an emergency medical dispatcher (EMD) and in CPR (Class C).

PEMA requires at least 104 hours of classroom and hands-on training, which includes the mandated EMD and CPR certifications. Training topics include:

  • Policy and procedure
  • Department standards
  • Call taking skills
  • Computer-aided dispatch
  • Geography
  • Radio operations

911 dispatchers in Pennsylvania are also often involved in professional associations, which provide professionals with networking opportunities, job opportunities, and continuing education programs and events:

Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association helps members stay informed through a professional magazine and email updates; stay represented through NENA operations, technical committees, and an E911 Institute; stay educated through national and local conferences and events; and stay in the lead through ENP certification and new technology and services.

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The Pennsylvania Chapter of the Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) keeps 911 dispatchers in Pennsylvania informed through member and chapter services committees, an annual conference, and legislative happenings.

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