What Does A Police, Fire and Ambulance Dispatcher Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

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Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

911 Operators

911 Operators operate telephone, radio, or other communication systems to receive and communicate requests for emergency assistance at 9-1-1 public safety answering points and emergency operations centers. Take information from the public and other sources regarding crimes, threats, disturbances, acts of terrorism, fires, medical emergencies, and other public safety matters. May coordinate and provide information to law enforcement and emergency response personnel. May access sensitive databases and other information sources as needed. May provide additional instructions to callers based on knowledge of and certification in law enforcement, fire, or emergency medical procedures.

Salary
$45800
Becoming One
Easy
Education
No degree required
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

What they do

911 Operators operate telephone, radio, or other communication systems to receive and communicate requests for emergency assistance at 9-1-1 public safety answering points and emergency operations centers. Take information from the public and other sources regarding crimes, threats, disturbances, acts of terrorism, fires, medical emergencies, and other public safety matters. May coordinate and provide information to law enforcement and emergency response personnel. May access sensitive databases and other information sources as needed. May provide additional instructions to callers based on knowledge of and certification in law enforcement, fire, or emergency medical procedures.

  • Question callers to determine their locations, and the nature of their problems to determine the type of response needed.
  • Determine response requirements and relative priorities of situations, and dispatch units in accordance with established procedures.
  • Record details of calls, dispatches, and messages.
  • Provide emergency medical instructions to callers.

Typical day

On a daily basis, 911 Operators record details of calls, dispatches, and messages. They question callers to determine their locations, and the nature of their problems to determine the type of response needed.

A typical day for a Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatcher will also include:

  • Determine response requirements and relative priorities of situations, and dispatch units in accordance with established procedures.
  • Scan status charts and computer screens, and contact emergency response field units to determine emergency units available for dispatch.
  • Receive incoming telephone or alarm system calls regarding emergency and non-emergency police and fire service, emergency ambulance service, information, and after-hours calls for departments within a city.
  • Answer routine inquiries, and refer calls not requiring dispatches to appropriate departments and agencies.
  • Enter, update, and retrieve information from teletype networks and computerized data systems regarding such things as wanted persons, stolen property, vehicle registration, and stolen vehicles.

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, 911 Operators also test and adjust communication and alarm systems, and report malfunctions to maintenance units. They may also provide emergency medical instructions to callers.

On a weekly to monthly basis, 911 Operators learn material and pass required tests for certification. They might also monitor alarm systems to detect emergencies, such as fires and illegal entry into establishments.

In addition, they read and effectively interpret small-scale maps and information from a computer screen to determine locations and provide directions.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them maintain files of information relating to emergency calls, such as personnel rosters, emergency call-out, and pager files.

To some 911 Operators, it is also their responsibility to enter, update, and retrieve information from teletype networks and computerized data systems regarding such things as wanted persons, stolen property, vehicle registration, and stolen vehicles.

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What is the job like

Job satisfaction

Very High

Is this job meaningful

Very High

74% said they were satisfied with their job and 85% said they found their job meaningful.


Melissa Parks
Metro Nashville Police Department, Nashville TN

I was a 911 Dispatcher for 5 years in the Metro Nashville Police Department, Nashville TN. I can still say, without hesitation, that it was one of the best positions I’ve ever had, and I was very good at it. I could have retired as a career dispatcher, save for a few aspects impossible to ignore.

My typical day

The beauty and attraction of this position, in addition to being the help that people needed, is that there was no typical day. Every day was based on multiple elements, including weather, the season, what shift you were on, holidays, local/national events, what officers were working that day, etc.

The only constant to expect and anticipate is that you had no idea what would unfold throughout your shift. Most days were extremely busy, with a rare quiet before the storm day thrown in for fun.

Pros

  • Being part of the police department, what some would call an elite organization
  • Having contacts with power (real or perceived)
  • Being a contact with power (real or perceived)
  • Providing crucial assistance to someone desperately in need, who probably never thought they’d ever have to call 911
  • Learning parts of your city (I had just moved to Nashville a few months prior, so training it was extra tough for me)
  • Constantly sharpening skills (listening, hearing, communication, public interaction, professionalism, memory, balance, multi-tasking, etc)
  • Developing new hobbies & skills in your off time to aid in de-stressing and relaxation (that can ultimately lead to a new career)
  • Mandatory annual training, support from the department, decent benefits
  • Now knowing what clearly constitutes a life and death situation lol

Cons

  • Having to detach (turn off emotions, compassion, & ignore almost every other normal human reaction) to be successful at your job
  • Sometimes having to make jokes / have nicknames for people in certain situations (still bothers me to this day that I was that person)
  • Constant shift work while you earn seniority and rise through the ranks – midnights were difficult for me & negatively affected my life
  • Consistent, quality childcare is tough to manage when your schedule is regularly changing
  • Politics and expected ass-kissing that accompany government/public service jobs – ultimately led to me resigning, since I was never good at playing the game and knew I never would be
  • The stress level is real… knowing you have seconds to simultaneously get the right information from a caller so you can get the right help to the right place and provide first responders with the right details and descriptions on your radio while they are enroute while also connecting by phone with superiors, supervisors, and auxiliary services can be daunting, especially first starting out
  • Constantly answering and talking on the phone – I hate talking on the phone to this very day, and most times do not answer it and haven’t listened to a voicemail in a decade

Side bar

I would cook at home to de-stress, and take the food I cooked to work the following day. Officers would get word from my colleagues that we had food that day, and would swing by if they were in the area. They always had something to anticipate and kept telling me I was in the wrong field because I was exceptionally talented in the kitchen. I left the department and ended up in catering and special events, businesses I grew from nothing and operated for many years. I currently have invested in my other true love, fashion, and recently launched my very first online boutique EyeDentifeyed Premium Eye Attire, Sunglasses for the Bold, Edgy, & Confident.

I always hold a special place in my heart and memories as a 911 Dispatcher. I’m proud to have been one and carry tremendous respect for the work they do.

Melissa Parks
911 Dispatcher at Metro Nashville Police Department
EyeDentifeyed


Pros

Suitable for people who like to follow routines.

Suitable for people who value relationships between co-workers and customers and want to work in a friendly non-competitive environment.

This career is perfect for people who love to work indoors.

It is easy to get into this career. Some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for this career.

Cons

Not suitable for people who like to work with designs.

Salary is below average.

How much do they make

Average salary

$45800 per year

Average hourly wage

$22 per hour

Entry-level 911 Operators with little to no experience can expect to make anywhere between $28,040 to $34,630 per year or $13 to $17 per hour.

Salary by experience Annual Hourly
Highest (Top 10%) $67,150 $32
Senior (Top 25%) $54,370 $26
Median $43,290 $21
Junior (Bottom 25%) $34,630 $17
No experience (Bottom 10%) $28,040 $13

This table shows the top 10 highest paying industries for 911 Operators based on their average annual salary.

Salary by industry Annual Hourly
Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals $63560 $30.56
Management of Companies and Enterprises $54990 $26.44
Business Support Services $51850 $24.93
State Government $51830 $24.92
Employment Services $50810 $24.43
Outpatient Care Centers $48920 $23.52
Other Support Services $48150 $23.15
Local Government $45930 $22.08
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools $43910 $21.11
Junior Colleges $43070 $20.71

View more salary by industries here.

Where can they work

Where can 911 Operators work? Here is a table showing the top 10 largest employers of 911 Operators including the average salary in that industry.

Employers Total Employed Annual Salary Hourly Wages
Local Government 74300 $45930 $22.08
Other Ambulatory Health Care Services 5640 $41120 $19.77
State Government 5540 $51830 $24.92
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools 2340 $43910 $21.11
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 2190 $41530 $19.97
Junior Colleges 450 $43070 $20.71
Elementary and Secondary Schools 250 $39720 $19.10
Other Support Services 220 $48150 $23.15
Employment Services 110 $50810 $24.43
Scientific Research and Development Services 70 $ $*

What is the work day like

Working hours

Less than 40 hours
9%

40 hours
78%

More than 40 hours
12%

Working schedule

89%

11%

0%

Email

How often do you use email in this job?

Once a week
12%

Every day
81%

Telephone

How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?

Once a week
0%

Every day
100%

Group discussions

How often do you have group discussions in this job?

Once a week
5%

Every day
73%

Public speaking

How often does this job require you to do public speaking?

Never
72%

Once a year
17%

Once a month
0%

Once a week
4%

Every day
7%

Level of competition

How much competitive pressure is in this job?

Not competitive at all
45%

Slightly competitive
30%

Moderately competitive
18%

Highly competitive
6%

Extremely competitive
1%

What is the work environment like

Office-style environment

Indoors in an environmentally controlled condition

Never
10%

Once a year or more
0%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
1%

Every day
89%

Warehouse-style environment

Indoors in a non-controlled environmental condition such as a warehouse

Never
82%

Once a year or more
8%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
4%

Every day
6%

Outdoors

Outdoors exposed to all weather conditions

Never
91%

Once a year or more
8%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
1%

Outdoors – Under Cover

Outdoors but under cover (e.g. structure with roof but no walls)

Never
93%

Once a year or more
6%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
1%

Every day
0%

How to become one

Difficulty to become one

Easy
You may need some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience. Most careers in this difficulty category usually don’t require a degree. However, you will need a few months of on-the-job training with experienced employees. Similar careers include Customer Service Representatives, Security Guards, and Bank Tellers.

Required level of education

What level of education do you need to perform the job?

Less than a High School Diploma
0%

High School Diploma or equivalent
75%

Post-Secondary Certificate
6%

Some College Courses
9%

Associate’s Degree or similar
10%

Bachelor’s Degree
0%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
0%

Master’s Degree
0%

Post-Master’s Certificate
0%

First Professional Degree
0%

Doctoral Degree
0%

Post-Doctoral Training
0%

Relevant majors

No majors found

Relevant work experience

How much related work experience do you need to get hired for the job?

None
71%

1 month
0%

1 to 3 months
0%

3 to 6 months
8%

6 months to 1 year
6%

1 to 2 years
7%

2 to 4 years
7%

4 to 6 years
0%

6 to 8 years
0%

8 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

On The Job Training

How much on the job training do you need to perform the job?

None or short demonstration
0%

1 month
1%

1 to 3 months
28%

3 to 6 months
44%

6 months to 1 year
19%

1 to 2 years
5%

2 to 4 years
0%

4 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
4%

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Organizer

People with this personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.

The Builder
67%

People with The Builder personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.


The Thinker
38%

People with The Thinker personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.


The Artist
14%

People with The Artist personality likes to work with designs and patterns. They prefer activities that require self-expression and prefer work that can be done without following a clear set of rules.


The Helper
48%

People with The Helper personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.


The Leader
57%

People with The Leader personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.


The Organizer
95%

People with The Organizer personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.


You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tend to like following set procedures and routines. They like working with data and details more than with ideas.

They also like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.

Work Values

Which values are the most important to a person’s satisfaction for this job?

Achievement
57%

You are someone who is results oriented. You prefer work that allows you to utilize your skills and abilities while at the same time giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Working Conditions
55%

You are someone who values job security, steady employment, and good working conditions. You also prefer work that keeps you busy all the time with something different to do every day.

Recognition
52%

You are someone who values job advancement and leadership roles. You prefer work that receives recognition for the work you do and jobs that are looked up to by others in the company and your community.

Relationships
86%

You are someone who likes to provide a service to others. You prefer a work environment where you can work with your co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Support
86%

You are someone who values a company that stands behind their employees. You prefer a work environment where everyone is treated fairly and is being supported by the company.

Independence
57%

You are someone who likes to work on your own and make your own decisions. You prefer work that requires little supervision and are allowed to try out your own ideas.

FAQ


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