Introduction to Dispatching
Disclaimer - This website is intended to provide people who are unfamiliar with the Emergency Dispatching field as a basis to familiarize them with the field. The author accepts no responsibility in using any techniques listed below. If the reader is or becomes a dispatcher, then they should follow their department's Standard Operating Guidelines and/or Standard Operating Procedures, or however they are trained and directed by their administration.
When I had my first job as a dispatcher, it was in a little college in north west Massachusetts of about
3,000 students. I worked the Saturday night 4pm - 12am shift dispatching for the campus police
department, and it was fun but nothing major really happened. But I was 18 years old and happy to be
working while attending college. Well, as school went on I decided that I didn't really like that school but
I loved the work. Halfway through the school year I applied for a part time dispatcher position in a town
nearby to my home in Western/Central Massachusetts. However being only 18 and not having worked a
"real" dispatching job (i.e. where real stuff happens other than kids being drunk) I was really not
considered seriously for that job. This was discouraging for me, but for some reason I saw another ad
wanting an Emergency Dispatcher in Brattleboro, VT, a town of about 15,000 residents. Being close to
my home, I applied for this job with the thought that there was no chance in hell that they would hire me
when they found out that I was only 19. Much to my surprise, the did offer me a part time dispatching
job, which, before I had finished my training period, they had offered me the full time position to which I
accepted. Of course I was 19 when I started training, and I had little clue what emergency dispatching
really was. I knew that you answered the phone and sent responders depending on the emergency. But
there is so much more to dispatching than I expected. I would estimate that about 25% of my training
time was spent learning how to dispatch, and the other 75% was learning procedures.
Qualifications and Qualities - Very Basic Personality and Physical Requirements
One of the keys to
being able to dispatch effectively is learning the procedures. If you have a hard time learning and remembering the
procedures of day to day dispatching, you will not make it. I say that only because when hell breaks
loose in the emergency world, there is no time to look up how to dispatch a call. If you do not know how
to get a hold of the appropriate unit to send without asking or looking the procedure up, then you should
not be dispatching. You will be a danger to a) the public, b) the responders, and c) to your fellow
dispatcher(s) (in centers with 2 or more dispatchers on duty at one time.)
Another quality that it is essential for a dispatcher to have is the ability to multi-task. In the dispatch
center there will be times when you have to do many things at once. Although those times may be few
and far between, if you get overwhelmed by dispatching out a call and answering the phone at the same
time, then rethink becoming a dispatcher.
Good hearing is a must! If you cannot hear where and what the responder is calling in, you are putting
their life in the line! Also, if you cannot remain calm during emergencies, then this profession is not for
you. If you are going to "freak out" because someone on the other end of the phone is getting beaten,
having trouble breathing, or trapped in a burning building, then you are not just not fit for this job, but a
danger to the public. Those are just some of the basic qualifications. There are plenty more.
One thing I should mention before I go on, usually it is required to have a clean background in order to get hired as a Public Safety Dispatcher. By clean background I mean never have been convicted of either a felony or a serious misdemeanor, but requirements vary by agency.