How to Become a 911 Dispatcher in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

911 emergency services in Allegheny County, which is home to Pittsburgh, the second largest city in Pennsylvania, are provided by the 911 Communications Center. The Allegheny 911 Communications Center, which handles calls for police, fire and EMS agencies, is staffed with 251 public safety telecommunicators, who handled more than 1.3 million in emergency and non-emergency calls in 2011 alone. Daily call volumes range from 4,500 to 5,000.

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The 911 Communications Center currently provides dispatching services for 91 police, 167 fire, and 46 EMS agencies in Allegheny County’s 130 municipalities.

If you want to become a 911 operator in Allegheny County, you must complete a number of steps:

Prepare for Employment in Allegheny County
Apply for Employment in Allegheny County with the Department of Human Services
Complete Pre-Employment Process
Complete 911 Dispatcher Training



Step 1. Prepare for Employment in Allegheny County

The best way to begin preparing for employment as a 911 dispatcher in Allegheny County is to ensure you meet the minimum requirements for employment, which include having training in computers and emergency medical services or police and fire training.

Further, a preferred requirement for employment is one to two years in the field of communications, EMS, or public safety.

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And although a college degree is not a requirement for employment as a 911 operator in Allegheny County, many individuals still choose to pursue a degree because it may allow them to achieve higher-level positions in the profession and better prepare for the demanding nature of this job. Popular degree options include:

  • Public Safety
  • Communications
  • Criminal Justice
  • Emergency Management
  • Homeland Security



Step 2. Apply for Employment in Allegheny County with the Department of
Human Services

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) is the hiring agency for 911 dispatcher positions in Allegheny County. The DHS job site provides a list of current job offerings. When a job opening for a 911 dispatcher appears, you must complete an Allegheny County employment application and mail it to:

Allegheny County Department of Human Resources
County Office Building
432 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

If you meet the requirements for employment, you will be placed on an eligibility list, and an interview is dependent upon your eligibility list placement.



 Step 3. Complete Pre-Employment Process for a Job in Allegheny County

If you are chosen as a candidate for a 911 operator job in Allegheny County, you will be required to complete a practical skills test, which is conducted by a lead or master instructor. You must be able to demonstrate the proper usage of the 911 operator equipment to pass the skills test, which includes:

  • Complaint card system
  • Local forms and computer aided dispatch (CAD)
  • TDD/TTY operations
  • Telephone operations

The skills test will also assess your knowledge of handling emergency and non-emergency lines, hotlines, call transferring, line tracing, and call holding.



Step 4. Complete 911 Dispatcher Training

All new 911 dispatchers, upon being hired, must complete a course of training that results in an examination, which includes 110 questions, 50 of which are from a nationally recognized 911 organization, such as the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials (APCO) or the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). The other 50 questions of the exam are specific to Allegheny County and its 911 communications system, operational procedures, and related matters.

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You can expect to be required to achieve and maintain certification as an emergency medical dispatcher (EMD) in the APCO 40-hour Dispatcher Training program, as well as CPR certification (class C). You may also be required to complete a CLEAN Terminal Operators program.

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