You would like to be a 911 dispatcher, but your current situation has you stuck in the house.
Can 911 dispatchers work from home? The short answer is yes. Current technology is allowing for 911 dispatchers in larger, metropolitan areas to assist in emergencies and crises without ever leaving the safety and security of their homes by utilizing specialized computer programs, VPNs, routers, laptops, and smartphones.
If you are looking toward a future career as a 911 operator but would rather work from a home office than a call center, this article has been designed to inform you of all of your options in the field of emergency dispatch.
What Does a 911 Dispatcher do?
A 911 dispatcher is a radio, telephone, or computer operator who acts as a direct line of connection between police, fire, or emergency services, and those in need. Not only do 911 operators dispatch first responders to crises, they often act as an anchor during the storm for those on the line, providing aid for life-saving medical interventions, like administering CPR, and attempting to keep callers as calm as possible until help can arrive.
The general duties of a 911 operator include:
- Taking incoming telephone calls regarding police, fire, or emergency medical services
- Speaking with callers to determine the location and nature of the situation at hand
- Prioritizing situations and determining response requirements
- Tracking details of all incoming calls, outgoing dispatches, and associated messages
- Contacting and coordinating the appropriate emergency response field units to ensure availability for dispatch when needed
- Remain calm, professional, and respectful regardless of the situation on the other end of the line
Are you able to remain cool under pressure and coordinate multiple resources simultaneously? You might have a bright future in 911 operations!
What do I Have to do to Become a 911 Dispatcher?
Educational and training requirements can vary from department to department, but generally speaking, the requirements to become a 911 dispatcher are:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Have a high school diploma or a GED
- Legally allowed to work in the United States
Though the requirements seem simple, becoming a 911 operator is anything but easy. The majority of 911 dispatch professionals must complete an extensive and often invasive pre-employment process that may involve a skills assessment, a background investigation, and a complete medical and psychological evaluation.
Once hired, most departments will require the completion of a comprehensive training program before actually taking calls and dispatching first responders. These programs may include classroom instruction as well as on-the-job training. Standards for training will vary from agency to agency, but most courses found within a 911 operator training program will include:
- Advanced First Aid
- Critical Incident Stress
- Emergency Medical Dispatch
- Suicide Intervention
- Domestic Violence
- Hazardous Materials Management
- Teletype (TTY) Training
- Basic Telecommunications
Most states have an initial requirement of forty hours of training as well as ongoing, continuing education during employment as a 911 dispatcher.
Are 911 Operators Sworn Officers?
911 dispatchers are normally civilian positions that provide support services to sworn first responders, like law enforcement, and members of the community in need. Although the position of a 911 operator is a sensitive one that does allow for access to law enforcement databases and records, it does not remove you from the title of a civilian.
Are 911 Dispatchers First Responders?
Without a doubt, 911 dispatchers are the first line of defense for many in crisis. It wasn’t until recently, however, that states began to recognize these angels on the line as such.
Recent legislation passed by many states, including Texas and California, now officially consider 911 operators and other public safety telecommunications specialists as first responders, as they should be.
What are the Hours I can Expect to Work as a 911 Operator?
Emergency call centers are open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three-hundred and sixty-five (three-hundred and sixty-six in a leap year) days a year. In other words, since emergencies don’t recognize holidays, neither do 911 dispatch centers.
Most 911 dispatchers work eight to twelve-hour shifts, but some departments will require you to work a longer shift. Since emergencies do not recognize a time clock, 911 operators work evenings, weekends, and holidays.
Is it Stressful to be a 911 Operator?
If you have ever had to deal with the public in any capacity, you know it can be stressful. When you add an emergency to the mix, the level of stress skyrockets. 911 dispatchers regularly interact with people who are in the worst moment of their lives and must maintain their composure regardless of the interaction.
911 operators can experience vicarious trauma, also more commonly known as compassion fatigue, as a direct result of helping callers and first responders who may be experiencing the most horrific day of their lives. When answering a call and hearing nothing but silence on the line or hearing gunfire or the screams of the injured, a 911 operator is the first responder. Many dispatchers hear the last breaths of callers or the first cry of a newborn baby.
The stress of being a 911 dispatcher can be great, but the rewards can be even greater.
How Can I be a 911 Dispatcher From Home?
As recently as 2020, many larger departments have begun taking emergency calls and handling emergency response operations from the homes of their dispatchers using the internet, cellular hotspots, and smartphones. The COVID quarantines and lockdowns did bring something good, I suppose.
Remote dispatchers utilize the same computer-aided dispatch (CAD) software that they would when sitting in their agency’s dispatch call center. Laptops, headsets, specialized VPN (virtual private network) routers, and smartphones have enabled 911 operators to take calls, offer assistance and dispatch emergency personnel from their homes with ease.
What About Tech Issues?
The reason more rural areas are not seeing a growth in remote 911 dispatch operations is due to the unavailability of reliable internet or cellular access. Larger cities offer the ability for at-home 911 dispatch operations because of their availability and reliability of internet access.
Currently, there is no way for 911 dispatchers to telecommute without access to the internet, which makes the availability of this opportunity much lower for areas outside larger cities.
I’m Ready to Become a 911 Dispatcher, What do I do?
If you feel like you can be the angel on the line for those in need, all you need to do to begin your journey is to contact your local emergency response services center to inquire about any employment opportunities that may be available to you as a 911 operator and what requirements you will have to meet for their specific department. Complete the necessary training as lined out by your agency and start your career as one of the first lines of defense in times of crisis.
Learn more about 911 dispatch HERE.
How much can I expect to make as a 911 dispatcher?
The average salary for a 911 dispatcher, according to Glassdoor is $39,640 per year. That number, of course, will vary from state to state and from department to department. Most agencies, however, offer ample opportunity for career advancement and a plethora of benefits.
What is the expected career longevity of a 911 operator?
It is hard to quantify a number when it comes to the longevity of a 911 operator. Most senior-level operators have a deep love and appreciation for their job, which leads to the lifelong dedication they give to it.
There is a high turnover rate, however, for 911 dispatchers, which could easily be attributed to the high stress level associated with the job.
Is there any specific work or education experience that can assist me in being a 911 dispatcher?
Experience working with people, especially in customer service-related industries can give you a competitive edge when deciding to become a 911 operator. Also, possessing strong communication skills, both verbal and written, will help to give you a leg up.
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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.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun and I’m so grateful that you’re here.
Civil servants are some of the hardest working, most generous people I know. I have been passionate about all types of civil service career paths for years now and enjoy sharing everything I continue to learn about them.
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