We are all taught at a very early age to dial 911 in the event of an emergency.  Most probably don’t think about the dispatcher who answers the call.  It takes someone who has a desire to help people, works well under stressful situations and doesn’t mind working irregular shifts and all days of the week including holidays.

In addition to dispatching calls, the dispatcher also handles walk-ins to the department, plays a role with departmental records, money handling (bond money) and has clerical duties such as: filing, entering citations and warnings, creating folders for arrestees, etc.

When handling calls the dispatcher must question each caller carefully to determine the type, seriousness, and location of the emergency.  After obtaining needed information from the caller, the dispatcher quickly decides the priority of the incident, the number and type of units to send, and the location of the closest suitable units available.  Some essential skills that are required to be an efficient dispatcher are:

  • Coping with emotionally tense situations.
  • Effectively remember details and make sometimes tough decisions under stressful conditions.
  • Cooperate with irate callers that may be verbally abusive while maintaining a professional attitude.
  • Know radio codes and signals fluently and correctly classify calls to responders (Police/Fire/EMS).
  • Handling multiple calls at any time while maintaining proper data entry used for logging calls for service and radio traffic.

While the job of a dispatcher is sometimes very stressful, you can make the difference by following these simple steps when you call to request emergency services.

  1. When you have to call 911, it’s a good bet that your adrenaline will be pumping and you’ll be really frightened or upset.  The first rule to remember is that you have to do all you can to stay calm.  Someone’s life depends on it.  Breathe in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth as you go for the phone and wait for an answer.
  2. Give the vital information first.  State your name, address and the phone number your calling from.  If you get disconnected, they will need a number to call you back at.
  3. Tell them what type of service you request to be sent to the address where the incident is occurring as this may be different from where you are calling from.
  4. Listen carefully to what they tell you to do and keep the phone with you if you can.  If not, tell them you will lay the phone down and go do exactly what you’re told.
  5. If you are very upset, the 911 operator may stay on the phone with you until help arrives.
  6. Stay with the person in trouble until help arrives.  At that time, back off and give them room to work unless they request your help.  Answer all of their questions and try not to ask your own.
  7. Train every family member on how to dial 911 and what to say.  Let them all know where an emergency number list is kept and when to call Police/Fire/EMS responders.  Just a little forethought can assure you that you will do everything possible in an emergency.

Please see the 911 Guide for further information to educate you and your family for emergencies.