How to Become a 911 Dispatcher in Tacoma, Washington

South Sound 911 is the agency responsible for providing emergency dispatching services to many areas in Pierce County including the cities of Tacoma, Lakewood, and Fife. Working at South Sound 911, you will act as the link between the public and emergency services, dispatching police, fire, and ambulance units as needed.

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South Sound 911 is a relatively new creation resulting from several initial mergers of area emergency dispatch centers, the first of which occurred at the end of 2012 with more expected in the future. Even with more than 170 employees, the number of jobs with this agency is projected to increase as more municipalities and counties merge their emergency dispatch services.

The following steps provide information on how to become a 911 dispatcher in Pierce County:

Become a Competitive Candidate
Apply with South Sound 911
In-Service Training
Expand your Career Options



Step 1. Become a Competitive Candidate

South Sound 911 typically receives many applications for a single open position. When considering how to become a 911 operator your first thoughts need to go towards making yourself a competitive candidate. You can achieve this by obtaining training and education pertinent to becoming a 911 dispatcher.

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There are degree programs available on at least three campus locations in Tacoma and through additional educational institutions online. Having a degree can be useful when you are initially applying with South Sound 911and when you are pursuing promotional opportunities in the future. Relevant programs include:

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

South Sound 911 requires you to have at least two years of experience in either:

  • A law enforcement agency
  • A clerical position that involves multitasking and public contact



Step 2. Apply with South Sound 911

You begin the application process for 911 dispatcher jobs in Pierce County by attending a short Recruiting Academy. To be scheduled for the next available academy send your name, phone number, and email address in an email to South Sound 911. Attending this academy will introduce you to the details of what it is like being a 911 operator in Pierce County.

Next you will need to complete a Personal History Statement that enquires into your past and sign an included waiver. This acts as your application to South Sound 911. If you are deemed to be a qualified applicant based on this you will next be invited to sit for an exam. The exam will evaluate your basic abilities in reading, math, grammar, and punctuation as well as your memory and multitasking capabilities. If you pass the exam you will receive a letter with your score and rank on an eligible candidate list.

There is continuous recruitment for dispatchers so you can begin the application process by emailing South Sound 911 at any time you choose.



Step 3. In-Service Training and Certification

Once hired, you’ll be required to become certified in a number of areas. This will be fully facilitated and sponsored by your employer. New-hire, in-service training and certification for 911 dispatchers in Pierce County may include:

  • Any courses having to do with certification by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) Public Safety Communications, which is approved by:
  • Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), also offering certification programs such as:


    • Emergency Medical Dispatch
    • Public Safety Communicator
    • Fire Service Communicator
    • Crisis Negotiations for Telecommunicators



Step 4. Expand Your Career Options

There are several things you can do to maintain competitive qualifications once you are working as an emergency operator. Because South Sound 911 is accredited in CALEA’s Public Safety Communications in cooperation with APCO, you can start by staying up to date with any continuing dispatch education offered through this agency.

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Courses are also available through:

Any additional credentials you have can make you both a better dispatcher and result in more lives saved while at the same time improving your chances for career advancement.

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