It is often overlooked by the public that 911 dispatchers can themselves be considered first responders. Providing instructions on how to open the airway of a choking child or staying on the line with someone in crisis can mean the difference between life and death until appropriate emergency services arrive.
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Last year there were approximately 300 professionals working in 911 dispatcher jobs in South Dakota, providing coverage for areas that range from a single county to multiple counties and the Highway Patrol.
Some of the major 911 centers in South Dakota include:
- Metro Communications Agency serving Minnehaha County and Sioux Falls with professionally trained dispatchers working at the Public Safety Answering Point
- Pennington County 911 serving all areas of the county including Rapid City
- Brown County Communications Center serving the county and Aberdeen through their Public Safety Answering Point
- Watertown 911 Call Center, which handled 40,000 calls for service last year
- Brookings Emergency 911 Center
Certification and Education for 911 Dispatchers in South Dakota
911 dispatcher job descriptions in South Dakota vary from agency to agency. Usually positions are at the county-level and require candidates to have a background check and an occasional typing speed test. Some departments use specially trained Tactical Dispatchers to coordinate the response for delicate situations involving suicidal callers, hostage situations, and high-risk warrants. It is typical for new-hires to participate in training that lasts hundreds of hours.
While researching how to become a 911 dispatcher in South Dakota, candidates may also come across certification requirements. Some of the larger agencies require 911 dispatcher training and certification such as the following:
- Basic 911 Training Academy in Pierre and subsequent state certification
- Emergency Medical Dispatch Certification through the National Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatch
- Graduation from the South Dakota Law Enforcement Training and Standards Commission
Many emergency call centers require 911 operator training in the medical field because providing the right instructions during a medical emergency can be particularly important. Caller psychology, communications ability, and technical skills such as map reading and computer knowledge can also prove to be beneficial skills for excelling as a dispatcher, and degrees in any of the following will confirm these abilities:
- Registered Nurse
- Public Safety
- Computer Science
911 Dispatching Careers in South Dakota
The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation projects a 7.4 percent growth rate in the state’s police, fire and ambulance dispatching field in the current decade leading up to 2020. By these estimates, there will be 365 emergency dispatchers working statewide earning an average salary of over $30,000 annually.
Working as a 911 dispatcher in South Dakota can expose candidates to extremely stressful life-and-death situations. However there can also be a lighter side to the profession: recently a 911 dispatcher received a call about Bigfoot walking around in a Sioux Falls Park during a jazz festival. When police arrived on the scene they determined the event was connected to a guerrilla marketing campaign to promote a local restaurant’s Bigfoot Burger.