How to Become a Public Safety Telecommunicator
Public safety telecommunicators usually must pass a typing test.
Public safety telecommunicators typically need a high school diploma to enter the occupation and then are trained on the job. Many states and localities require these workers to become certified.
In addition, candidates usually must pass an exam and a typing test. In some instances, candidates may need to pass a background check, lie detector and drug tests, and tests for hearing and vision.
The ability to communicate in another language, such as Spanish or American Sign Language, may be helpful.
Public safety telecommunicators typically need a high school diploma to enter the occupation.
Public safety telecommunicators typically receive training on the job. Training requirements and length of training vary by state and locality.
For example, some states require 40 or more hours of training, and others require continuing education every 2 to 3 years. Still other states do not mandate any specific training, leaving individual localities and agencies to structure their own requirements and conduct their own courses.
Training programs typically involve an instructional course and may include on-the-job demonstrations. Training may be followed by a probationary period of about 1 year. However, the period may vary by agency, as there is no national standard governing training or probation.
Training covers a variety of topics, such as local geography, agency protocols, and standard procedures. Public safety telecommunicators learn how to use equipment such as computer-aided dispatch systems, which consist of several monitors that may display call information, maps, and video. They also may receive training to prepare for high-risk incidents, such as child abductions and suicidal callers.
Some agencies have their own training programs for public safety telecommunicators; others use training from separate associations. Agencies often use standards from the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO International), the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), and the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED) as a guideline for their own training programs.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Many states and localities require public safety telecommunicators to be certified. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) provides a list of states requiring training and certification. One certification is the Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) certification, which enables dispatchers to give medical assistance over the phone.
Public safety telecommunicators may choose to pursue additional certifications, such as the National Emergency Number Association’s Emergency Number Professional (ENP) certification or APCO’s Registered Public-Safety Leader (RPL) certification, which demonstrate their leadership skills and knowledge.
Training and additional certifications may help public safety telecommunicators become senior dispatchers or supervisors. Additional education and related work experience may be helpful in advancing to management-level positions.
Ability to multitask. Public safety telecommunicators must stay calm in order to simultaneously answer calls, collect vital information, coordinate responders, monitor multiple displays, and use a variety of equipment.
Communication skills. Public safety telecommunicators work with law enforcement, emergency response teams, and civilians. They must be able to communicate the nature of an emergency effectively and to coordinate the appropriate response.
Decision-making skills. When people call for help, public safety telecommunicators must be able to determine the response dictated by procedures and to work efficiently with the assisting emergency departments.
Empathy. Public safety telecommunicators must be willing to help a range of callers with varying needs. They must be calm, polite, and sympathetic, while also collecting relevant information quickly.
Listening skills. Public safety telecommunicators must listen carefully to collect relevant details, even though some callers might have trouble speaking because of anxiety or stress.
Typing skills. Public safety telecommunicators enter the details of calls into computers; typing speed and accuracy are essential when responding to emergencies.