Are 911 Dispatchers Allowed to Hang Up?

Dispatchers are not bound by law to stay on the phone line; they are bound by agency policy and procedure. Does this mean they could hang up? Yes, but they most likely won’t. If you ever find yourself calling 911, keep this in mind. This is especially important to know if you find yourself in a bad situation that resulted in a faulty 911 call. After all, knowing what a dispatcher can or cannot do can ultimately save you from a bad situation one day.

No law states a dispatcher must stay on the line, though it is usually dictated by policy and legal statutes. In some cases, if there’s a crime that takes place due to a bad 911 call, it may be brought up in court. A dispatcher’s job duties are set by the state, county, or city. There are even federal dispatchers working for United States agencies such as the Forest Service in some cases. Each type of dispatch job and dispatcher has different duties within the agency they work for.

So whether you’re looking into a career as a 911 dispatcher or want to know what a dispatcher can or cannot do, this article will clear up any questions you may have and will give you an idea of how the call may go in the event of an emergency. These jobs can be stressful and require specific types of people to be able to perform them. They are not for the faint of heart.

What is A 911 Dispatcher?

A 911 dispatcher is a person who answers your call in the event of an emergency. Whether you are a victim of a crime, find yourself in a medical emergency, or are caught in a fire, 911 is the number to call. Once they have taken down the information needed, they will send the proper authorities to the emergency scene.

By the looks of this, it would seem like the dispatcher should stay on the line until help has arrived, but the truth is that it’s much more complicated than that.

Are 911 Dispatchers Allowed to Hang Up?

Dispatchers have to be fantastic multi-taskers. They perform a type of call-triage, so to speak. For example, if multiple calls come in, they need to prioritize and assign calls to the appropriate authorities depending on the severity of the cases. If this is completed improperly, lives could be lost. Dispatchers know this and take their jobs very seriously.

There are always those rare cases where a dispatcher is ill-suited for the job, though. Suppose you’re considering a career as a dispatcher, like with jobs in law enforcement or fire-fighting. In that case, you have to ask yourself if you can mentally and emotionally handle some of the more challenging calls that come through.

Can a Dispatcher Hang Up?

The truth is, working as a 911 dispatcher is not strictly black and white. There are some counties and call centers that are much stricter than others. Not all states have the same statutes, so there is some variation of what is legal and what is not.

Although there is no written law a dispatcher has to stay on the line, there was a case in Texas where a 911 operator did ten days in jail for hanging up on a caller. In this case, the dispatcher received a call about a possible robbery. The 911 operator stated that she did not have time for this and hung up on the call. Unfortunately, the robbery ended with one fatality. An investigation was conducted into the dispatcher’s record and showed that she hung up on thousands of callers throughout her time as a dispatcher.

Cases like this prove the importance of a successful 911 call and the dispatcher’s ability to help the caller. Most dispatchers are there to provide the proper assistance to those in need. While most dispatcher hang-ups will not end in a fatality, it is crucial to keep this in mind if you ever find yourself wanting to work as a dispatcher and have an urge to hang up.

Another case where a hang-up actually might be protocol is when the dispatcher needs to dispatch officers and authorities right away and cannot stay on the line. They also may hang up if they feel the caller is in danger by remaining on the phone. They may state, “help is on the way,” and then hang up, sending authorities to the GPS coordinates. Valid hang-ups may apply for varying reasons.

Who Runs the Dispatch Centers?

City, county, and state agencies manage most dispatch call centers. Because they can be expensive to operate, most cities and counties have multi-agency dispatch centers they share. All public dispatch centers have statutes and state regulations that set up how they’re going to run.

Are 911 Dispatchers Allowed to Hang Up?

City dispatch centers are usually found in larger municipalities. They are the central hub for emergency communication for larger metropolitan areas due to the high caller volume. Cities like Los Angeles have multiple call centers due to the sheer number of people within their jurisdiction.

Most states have centralized regional and county dispatch centers. Public Safety Answering Points or PSAPs usually manage these. PSAPs are call centers for all emergency responders like police, firefighters, and ambulance services. They answer calls and dictate where they need to go, whether it’s private or public safety agencies.
There are University Police stations that usually have a separate dispatch center dedicated to the university, so if you are a college student or are a college student, feel safer knowing your calls will be taken seriously.

Another dispatch PSAP not many think about are federal dispatch centers that usually revolve around agencies such as the National Park Service, United State Forest Service, Tribal agencies, and various land management departments. These agencies typically manage wildland fire management communications centers and federal law enforcement associated with these agencies.

Will 911 Call Back If You Hang Up?

If you consider calling 911 and hanging up as part of a prank, you may want to consider pranking someone else. Dispatchers are required to call you back once they receive a call. In the case that they call you back and you either do not pick up, or they receive a busy signal, they will send the police to you since they can track your location.

Purposeful prank callers could face felony charges or steep fines. This is nothing to mess around with, as dispatchers take all calls seriously. If it is not serious, you could take valuable resources from those who need help.

If you hang up due to fear or some other reason related to an emergency, the dispatcher might attempt to call you back to make sure you are all right. If they don’t get a response, they will dispatch emergency services to your location either from the address associated with the landline or GPS location from your cellphone.

If you call on accident, stay on the line to let them know so they won’t dispatch emergency personnel to your location.

What it comes down to is, if it’s not an emergency, don’t call 911.

Can you text 911 now?

Are 911 Dispatchers Allowed to Hang Up?

So, you’re unable to call 911? The question is, can you text 911? This capability is popping up in many urban areas. It’s not functioning in all areas, so check with your local emergency communications center for more information.

Some smartphones also have quick emergency response buttons and capabilities. If you wear certain smartwatches, they have fall detectors that will call designated emergency numbers such as family or friends. In the event those people don’t answer, a call is automatically placed with 911. In Arizona, a new’s article reported a successful rescue of an unresponsive man as soon as the feature came online!

This leads one to wonder, what do people do who have hearing or sight impairments? Texting 911 is only available around 10% of the country. Interestingly enough, there is some text-to-speech software available for people who require this adaptive technology to communicate. For more information, please read the following article:

What Kind of Training Does a Dispatcher Need?

Learning how to operate the communication system is only the beginning of what you need to know to become a dispatcher. The basic qualifications to apply are usually a high school diploma or GED, though some agencies are requiring some college credit more recently. You also have to pass a civil service exam. If you receive an interview, you’ll go through a thorough background check and psychological exam.

A dispatcher’s job will range from instructing emergency responders where to go on a call to diffusing a possibly violent situation over the phone. Some dispatchers have reported giving instructions for CPR over the phone and even communicating the steps in delivering a baby! They are also frequently the person who has to listen while somebody takes their final breath. There isn’t training for that.

Other skills necessary to be a great dispatcher include being a fantastic communicator, having extraordinary multi-tasking abilities, and staying calm in high-stress situations over the phone.

Learn more about 911 dispatch HERE.

Does a Dispatcher Make Good Money?

People go into this career to help others. Their salaries range from $29,000 to $45,000, but the services they offer are invaluable.

Different police officers and emergency responders have indicated an excellent 911 dispatcher is worth their weight in gold. They save lives every day. Dispatching jobs also come with benefits and, depending on the agency, a retirement plan. Check with the department or agency where you’re applying to find out more.

Some of these positions hire through the county, while others are considered state jobs, it depends on the nature of the communication center where applicants apply. These will come with slightly different benefits packages and will often determine your starting salary.

Related Questions

Is it difficult to become a 911 Dispatcher?

In terms of the qualifications, it isn’t difficult. All you need is a high school diploma or GED, a clean record, and pass a civil service exam. In terms of actually getting hired, you have to go through a vetting process that could take months, including a psychological exam, thorough background check, and a firm grasp of technology. Being a 911 Dispatcher isn’t for the faint of heart. They need to have excellent communication and multi-tasking skills and have a calm, even-keeled demeanor.

If there’re many EMTs and law enforcement in a particular area, how does a 911 dispatcher figure out who gets the call?

There are usually areas of responsibility for a particular fire or police department, it’s usually based on jurisdiction. If this doesn’t work, usually, the closest resource based on GPS that can meet the incident’s needs will be the first ones to respond.

How stressful is it to be a 911 Dispatcher?

It can be a very stressful career but also a very rewarding one. Like multiple people have said on various forums, Dispatchers are the true first responders in an emergency. They are the ones that call out emergency responders and listen to people who may be in high distress.

Related Articles

How Do Soldiers Not Overheat?

To learn how to best prepare and study for your civil servant exam click here!

Free civil service guide. Click here to learn more:

Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.