How to Become a 911 Dispatcher in Arlington County, Virginia

Working in Arlington County’s Emergency Communications Center (ECC), you will carry the responsibility of dispatching police, fire, and ambulance units in response to an average daily load of between 800 and 1,400 calls for help. Emergency medical and fire services respond to about 100 calls each day, with police units being dispatched to around 300 calls daily.

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If you think you have what it takes to become a 911 operator in Arlington County, then review this step-by-step process:

Gain Credentials to Become a More Competitive Candidate
Apply with Arlington County Emergency Dispatch
Participate in On-the-Job Training
Maintain your Qualifications

As a 911 dispatcher it is up to you to gather as much valuable information as you can from your callers, provide this to the first responder units, and all the while keep the caller calm while providing helpful instructions.

As you learn how to become a 911 dispatcher in Arlington County, you should first consider your aptitudes in the following areas:

  • Ability to accurately multitask
  • Ability to work in emotionally stressful situations
  • Ability to remain calm with callers who may be upset
  • Ability to type 25 words per minute and work rotating 12-hour shifts



Step 1. Gain Credentials to Become a More Competitive Candidate

As you begin considering the application process, keep in mind basic qualifications in Arlington County include at least a GED, one year of work experience, no felony convictions. If hired, expect to earn a salary that last year in the greater metro area came out to an average of $44,430. Needless to say there is high competition for 911 jobs in Arlington County, but there are specific things you can do to increase your candidacy.

Besides certification and experience, having a college degree in any of the following subjects will show your hiring manager you have already made at least a two or four-year commitment to improving your skills in a specific area:

  • Communications
  • Emergency Management
  • Psychology
  • Fire Science
  • Homeland Security
  • Law Enforcement

There are at least a dozen colleges located in Arlington offering useful degree programs with even more opportunities available online.



Step 2. Apply with Arlington County Emergency Dispatch

You can apply online with the Arlington County Human Resources Department when there are openings for Emergency Communications Technicians, which will be posted on the online vacancies webpage. If there are no current 911 dispatcher job openings you can elect to be notified by email when these become available.

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To create an online application you will first need to set up a job seeker account. When you submit your online application you also need to include a completed Background Investigation Packet.

Once this and your application have been received and you are chosen to continue in the application process you will need to take:

  • Typing Test, which you must pass by typing at least 25 words per minute
  • CritiCall Public Safety Communications Examination

You may also find it useful to browse the following:



Step 3. Participate in On-the-Job Training

Expect the following 911 operator training once you are hired:

  • Motorola Digital Radio Systems
  • Tiburon UNIX Computer Aided Dispatch System
  • GIS mapping systems
  • Emergency Medical Dispatch Certification through a 30-hour course
  • Virginia State Basic Dispatcher Certification through an 80-hour course
  • CPR Certification through the American Heart Association through an 8-hour course
  • Previous law enforcement, medical, or fire dispatch experience

911 dispatcher training is available through a number of organizations both online and in the Arlington County area, including:



Step 4. Maintain Your Qualifications

As you become accustomed to working in the newly renovated ECC, which includes an advanced $38 million radio system, you can begin thinking about moving up the chain of command into more advanced positions. Maintaining your qualifications is a good way to accomplish this, and also has the added benefit of keeping you on top of your game as life-saving emergency operator. And in case knowing that lives depend on your actions as a dispatcher was not enough pressure to maintain your edge, remember that the Pentagon is also included among your Arlington County clients.

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You can find continuing education courses and lectures with:

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