A communications dispatcher works in a challenging and fast-paced field that involves handling a wide range of telephone calls from people who are seeking help from police, fire crews or other public service workers. This includes both emergency and non-emergency situations. A communications dispatcher can work for a single police department or fire department or might be responsible for multiple public safety agencies.
The urgency of the job requires communications dispatchers to think fast on their feet. Part of the role of the communications dispatcher is to assess a call quickly and determine whether emergency crews need to be sent out. Emergency crews typically are dispatched to various incidents such as fires, crimes or traffic accidents.
The ability to assess a situation accurately and prescribe the best course of action can save lives. It also is important that resources and time are not wasted by sending out crews to situations that are not true emergencies. Sometimes people will call about issues outside the scope of what is handled by emergency agencies. When this happens, the call must be ended tactfully and promptly so that the emergency phone lines are not tied up.
Much of the work involves handling emergency calls, so a communications dispatcher usually needs to know cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). This requires taking and successfully completing a CPR course. Dispatchers often need to provide CPR instructions to callers who are reporting a medical emergency.
Typically, communications dispatchers spent most of their time on the telephone. For this reason, they must be able to handle a multi-line telephone system, must speak clearly and must have excellent hearing skills. They also must be able to relay accurate information from a caller to emergency crews that are responding to an incident. Obviously, making mistakes with this information could waste time or make volatile situations even worse.
Clerical skills also are important to the job. Communications dispatchers are often called upon to type, prepare and file incident reports. Communications dispatchers typically record much of this information on a computer while talking with callers on the phone.
Generally, the best communications dispatchers have a strong desire to serve the public and help others. Callers caught in the midst of a crisis can become extremely rude or emotional. The reward of being a communications dispatcher comes from helping others through a crisis or helping police find criminals or stolen property, for example.