A 911 operator may be known by several different titles, including public service dispatcher; 911 call taker; or police, fire, and emergency dispatcher. The primary task performed in 911 operator jobs is to take emergency calls and route the nearest appropriate emergency personnel to the scene. Within a day's work, a 911 operator, or dispatcher, can field calls from the public and enter details about the emergency in a computer system or by hand. The 911 operator can then decide how serious the call is and who would best handle the emergency.
911 operator jobs can vary from entering complete data from all of the day or night's calls into a computer or communications radio dispatch system, to handling and calming stressful situations on the phone with people who are often in a panicked frame of mind. A dispatcher can also give some emergency medical advice if he or she is certified in emergency medical training. Good customer service and communications skills are necessary to most accurately assess the nature and priority of the emergencies and communicate clearly with both the person on the end of the telephone line and the nearest emergency personnel. A great skill to have for all 911 operator jobs is to be calm under pressure.
Usually, a high school or equivalency degree is needed to be a 911 operator. In some areas, further certification in emergency dispatcher training or other related computer-assisted dispatching certifications are needed. Many regions and localities that hire 911 operators can also request a potential dispatcher pass pre-hiring tests or complete crisis management training. Employers can also provide that training after an employee is hired.
The most common method of training employees for 911 operator jobs is actually on the job. A trainer will have a new 911 operator work with him or her on incoming calls so the new employee can learn the ropes of the communications and computer system, as well as how to best handle the emergency calls as they happen. After a period of training that can be as long as a few months, the 911 operator should be ready to handle calls on his or her own and evaluate and route the emergencies to the nearest police, fire department, or emergency technicians.