Can you be a 911 Dispatcher Part-Time?

Maybe you stumbled upon this article because you are considering a career as a 911 dispatcher. I’ve considered it myself. Through my research, I’ve discovered a common theme among many 911 dispatchers. I am here to confidently share with you everything I have learned.

Can you be a 911 dispatcher part-time?

The simple answer is yes you can be a 911 Dispatcher part-time, but the logical answer is that it’s very uncommon. Just like any career in law enforcement, you can’t dedicate only half of yourself to the job. If you decide to become a 911 dispatcher, you must be all in. This isn’t a part-time gig, it’s a full-time career. In taking the brave step to serve the community, you must be willing to sacrifice a major portion of your life.

Can you be a 911 Dispatcher Part-Time?

How many hours do 911 dispatchers work?

If you plan on becoming a 911 dispatcher, expect to work long days. Most 911 dispatchers can guarantee that their weekly schedule will look a certain way.

● 8-hour shifts x 5 days a week or 10-hour shifts x 4 days a week (=40-hour weeks)
● Some dispatchers work as much as 12 hours a day
● Expect day and night shifts (emergencies can happen 24/7)
● Rotations (do not expect to work the same days every week)
● Overlapping shifts (you can’t leave your shift until someone shows up to relieve you)

If you would like to see for yourself where I drew this bulleted conclusion, check out this forum conversation: https://www.reddit.com/r/911dispatchers/comments/33ejsf/lets_talk_schedules/. This shows like-minded strangers gathered, sharing what their schedules look like within their dispatching departments.

Now, this may seem like a somewhat average job when it comes to hours, but I purposely left something out to further discuss.

Overtime:

The need for 911 dispatchers never dies down. If anything, it rises. Through this realization, I unveiled the demand for overtime in this specific career. I spent some time reading through different forums and communities of 911 dispatchers. Many of them shared that in their departments, most employees were working overtime hours.

It seems to be uncommon to only work the normal 40-hour weeks, especially in larger cities/communities. According to https://www.overtimepaylaws.org/dispatcher-overtime-pay-lawsuit/, not only is overtime very common among this career path, but it’s also lawfully known that 911 dispatchers are rightfully owed overtime pay for all of the extra hours they put in. The Fair Labor Standards Act exists to say so.

There have been lawsuits in the past involving overtime for 911 dispatchers. This just goes to show it’s been made known that they put in long hours. The need for 911 operators is constant. They must be readily available 24/7. If that means long hours and overtime, then that is what you can expect.

Just because it’s a holiday or the weekend, doesn’t mean you will have the day off.

Recently my friend became a police officer. One of the main questions his background investigator asked during his hiring process was this: “Will you be able to handle not being with family on holidays or special occasions?”

The same goes for 911 dispatchers. No matter what, there are always emergencies. That’s just the way the world is. We all know that there’s no such thing as perfection. With emergencies 24/7, there must be many people serving as 911 dispatchers.

How many 911 calls do you think are made each year in the United States?

The answer is 240 million, according to https://www.nena.org/page/911Statistics. That averages out to 600,000 calls per day. Now to put this into perspective even further, https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/nyc-911-calls-fall-to-multi-year-low-weeks-after-record-high-fdny/2398808/ states that at one point in New York City, they struck a record of 6,500 911 calls in one day. Just to be clear, this is one city we are talking about. 6,500 people in ONE day were desperate enough to call emergency services. Not to mention, New York’s 911 dispatchers helped 6,500, if not way more, people.

Can you be a 911 Dispatcher Part-Time?

Now, this leads me to an interesting conclusion that I have drawn up on my own. There may never be enough 911 dispatchers to satisfy the number of emergencies that happen each day.

“911, can you please hold?”

Well, that’s not the most comforting thing to hear in desperation.

I want to share with you a personal and surprising experience I had with a 911 dispatcher. I was working at a local coffee shop in my town. I looked out the window and realized that an intoxicated person was walking on the shoulder of one of the busiest streets in my city. Cars were honking. This person was seconds away from getting hit by a car that was traveling at 40 mph.

I knew this person needed a welfare check and encouragement to stay away from oncoming traffic. I immediately called 911 and was greeted with that unexpected question. “911, can you please hold?”

In a majorly booming city of almost 100,000 people, I had to “hold” to help a member of my community in danger. Let’s be clear, I’m not blaming anyone at all for this delay in service. I’m just trying to demonstrate how disproportionate the number of calls is versus the number of dispatchers available to effectively route emergency services to those in need.

Now, I’d like to bring up another point relating to the main topic of this article. Can you be a 911 dispatcher part-time? In theory, yes, but unless you have extremely good stress coping mechanisms, the career stays with you always.

What I mean by this is that even after a long day of dispatching, you can’t come home and immediately forget everything you dealt with that day.

It can be extremely draining to help people in their weakest and most fearful moments. I don’t have facts to prove this, but I believe it’s common sense. The same goes for first responders and many other careers in today’s world.

The average 911 call may last a lot longer than you would think.

I recently watched a show that shared an incident involving a dangerous situation. A woman working in a store that sold weapons, was hiding in her office as a man was robbing the gun display while holding another employee at gunpoint. She was hiding under a desk speaking to a 911 dispatcher as the robbing was in progress. She could hear the man trying to wiggle the doorknob of her office. He was trying to get to her.

Can you be a 911 Dispatcher Part-Time?

The entire time she was experiencing this, the 911 dispatcher had to calm her down on the phone. To my recollection, this phone call lasted nearly 10 minutes. The 911 dispatcher remained on the phone with the women until the police arrived and the suspect was disarmed of his weapon.

This wasn’t a quick incident that allowed 911 to dispatch emergency services and then hang up. This dispatcher had to calm the victim down and guide her to safety. The victim gave her undivided trust to a stranger on the phone. She trusted her with her life as the 911 dispatcher finally relieved her with the news that it was safe to get out from under her desk. Luckily, it all worked out.

Now, if this specific incident lasted nearly 10 minutes, and there are 240 million 911 calls made per year in the U.S, you can imagine the time and effort put into 911 dispatching. Imagine your shift is over in two minutes and you accept one more emergency call. That call could last 10 minutes or even longer. You can’t just hang up when someone’s life is in danger because your shift is over for the day.

This is where overtime and long hours come into play. I’ve quickly realized that the impracticality of this being a part-time career makes a lot more sense.

Would you like to hear an actual 911 dispatcher’s opinion on working part-time?

Part of my research tactic on this specific topic involved interviewing a friend who worked as a 911 dispatcher for quite some time. She elaborated on my research questions with some very interesting information.

She shared that the dispatching service she worked for had two part-time positions available. They became available to help with those that had families and other obligations. Unfortunately, the positions caused so many scheduling errors that they were eliminated very quickly.

Not only did my friend agree that it was difficult to work part-time as a 911 dispatcher, but she simply said, “I didn’t WANT to work part-time”. She put a lot of hard work into training for her job; she was all in.

I find it hard to believe that an individual would sacrifice so much time and effort into learning such a specific skill and then end up working only part-time. Not to mention, if you are willing to sacrifice your sanity for the greater good of your community, you must be passionate about what you can provide us as a 911 dispatcher.

Dispatching, EMS, and Law Enforcement aren’t just jobs where you show up to do monotonous tasks to collect a paycheck. These people all have one thing in common; their career is a calling. They were meant to sacrifice personal time, sleep, and mental and emotional well-being to serve something greater than themselves.

More about being a 911 dispatcher HERE.

Related Questions

1.) When would part-time hours as a dispatcher be acceptable?

In specific circumstances, it may be possible to work part-time as a dispatcher. This could include helping overlap others shifts for a few hours or to cover when dispatchers are calling in sick. Part-time work may be offered in dire times of need.

2.) How many 911 dispatchers work in the U.S?

There are currently around 100,000 people working as 911 dispatchers in the U.S. The number is expected to increase by 6-8% in the next few years.

3.) How much on average do 911 dispatchers make?

911 dispatchers make, on average, an annual salary of 50,000 dollars. That equates to roughly 4,000 dollars per month. That number can be drastically more with how common it is to work overtime hours within the career field.

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