There was a time when public safety dispatchers would work simple phone lines, typically with one computer to help them sort through the available information to make sure that a 911 caller got the help they needed. It’s incredible to think how different the job was just 10 or 20 years ago, given the technology that a dispatcher uses in 2017.

So what has changed over the last decade or so? What kind of knowledge and experience does a dispatcher have to have in the new public safety world to be effective at their job? We’ve taken a look at the landscape and listed some new job requirements below.

911 dispatchers must be able to both multi-task and focus intensely to be successful

Instead of one computer screen, the modern-day dispatcher could conceivably be looking at four or five at once, working on three different keyboards, and using multiple mice to work on several PCs simultaneously.

And the days of picking up a phone are long gone. Dispatchers have been wearing headsets to take calls for years, leaving their hands free for other tasks.

That means they could be working on any number of things at one time: monitoring phone lines, keeping an eye on frequencies, or looking at maps of their assigned cities or counties. It takes a lot of quick thinking and organizational skills to keep up with all that.

911 dispatchers must be technologically savvy

Public safety technology is evolving so quickly that it’s impossible to imagine training someone on it from scratch. The modern-day dispatcher must have some sort of proficiency in tech before they come aboard, whether it’s through retail, contact center work, or even just through their own daily interactions with computers, mobile technology, and software systems.

Anyone who becomes a dispatcher in 2017 has to be highly comfortable with today’s technology – otherwise, they could become overwhelmed.

911 dispatchers need emergency response training

A modern-day dispatcher is no longer someone who simply relays the emergency calls to the proper place. Oftentimes they must be able to give out some form of medical or firefighting instructions to the caller while help is on the way.

That takes a lot of study, and given the typical hectic pace of a dispatcher’s shift, it has to be recalled quickly. If someone considering a career in dispatching isn’t willing to reach beyond what the job used to entail into new and complex areas of knowledge, they might not be the best fit for the job.

911 dispatchers can develop their positions into promising careers

There are many who once looked at the position of dispatcher as a stepping-stone to a career in police work, firefighting or other areas of public safety.

But those days are more or less gone. The field has become so much more complex and demanding than it once was, that those who excel at it are highly valued for their skills. Although salaries are not as competitive in this area as they might be in the public sector, one can certainly make a career out of being a skilled dispatcher.

911 dispatchers must be willing to manage and address their own stress levels, as well as the caller’s

Multi-tasking; new and fast-changing technology; a hectic pace in the workplace; the urgency and fear of those calling in with emergencies.

It’s no wonder that stress management skills are so important for the modern-day dispatcher. And it’s not just about learning techniques to handle their own stress levels; a good public safety worker knows how to instill calm in a panicked victim, whether they’re at the scene or on the other end of a phone line.

Helping a victim through the early moments of an emergency is an incredibly important skill to have. A good dispatcher will learn quickly how to help the caller try to remain calm, take in pertinent details and give them the information that they need.

911 dispatchers are often called “invisible first responders,” because they are, in truth, the first people “on the scene” – even if they’re not physically present with each caller. To learn more about these unseen – and often unsung – heroes, read “I am a 911 Dispatcher.”

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