911 Operators have to handle incoming calls for ambulance, fire and police assistance and assess the caller’s needs; they are called emergency dispatchers. Working in a high-energy environment; they are required to make instant decisions when they speak to callers grappling with an emergency. In this article, we will discuss the responsibilities of a 911 operator and the prerequisites you need in order to get hired as one.
Job profile of 911 Operators
Incoming calls to a police station, firehouse, medical center or general communication center that might pertain to both non-emergency and emergency situations are required to be attended by a 911 dispatcher. A dispatcher must have the ability to multi-task while at the same time remain calm and composed when they communicate with a caller seeking help in a crisis.
The emergency dispatcher has to evaluate the situation and consequently decide what services and how many personnel to dispatch to the location of the caller. The 911 dispatcher may be required to file reports of all the calls received by them; they will provide information and resources in the event of non-emergency calls.
The work of dispatchers is conducted at general communication centers, medical centers, firehouses or police stations. Apart from these places, dispatchers could be required to fill available positions in private companies (e.g. security firms) or universities.
911 dispatchers are usually required by employers to undergo specific training programs; such training includes a wide range of technical, communication and stress management skills. The technical training program is devised to deal with the technical aspects of broadcasting and radio equipment. Normally, the training process of 911 dispatchers spans duration of 3 to 6 months (source: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) (www.bls.gov)).
In order to handle calls pertaining to medical emergencies, a 911 dispatcher may be required to complete an emergency medical dispatch course and may need to have CPR certification. Often, employers require prospective 911 dispatchers to complete a certificate program in emergency communications. Such certification could comprise part of training and are supplementary to other training needs of a specific employer. Alternatively, it will constitute the whole training program by itself.
Several colleges and universities offer certification courses for 911 operators, such programs are categorized under the criminal justice or communications courses. Some offer online courses.
Usually, employers insist on a high school education as an essential criterion for an aspiring 911 operator; however, the requirements could differ according to the needs of a particular employer. Some employers insist on relevant college coursework while others look for prior experience in the operation of broadcasting equipment, still others insist that the prospective 911 dispatcher be proficient in a foreign language. In general, a prospective dispatcher must have great people skills and the ability to remain composed and offer reassurance to callers seeking assistance in a crisis.