Public Safety Telecommunicator

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Related roles: 911 Dispatcher, Communications Officer, Communications Operator, Communications Specialist, Dispatcher, Emergency Communications Operator (ECO), Police Dispatcher, Public Safety Dispatcher, Telecommunicator, Emergency Response Dispatcher


Similar Titles

911 Dispatcher, Communications Officer, Communications Operator, Communications Specialist, Dispatcher, Emergency Communications Operator (ECO), Police Dispatcher, Public Safety Dispatcher, Telecommunicator, Emergency Response Dispatcher

Job Description

The world can be a dangerous place, but luckily we have agencies dedicated to promoting public safety and responding to incidents quickly. But how are those resources routed to the right locations at the right time? Through the work of Public Safety Telecommunicators! These specialized call center dispatchers are the vital link between a citizen in need and an emergency response unit. 

Using high-tech computer systems, they take calls, collect information, establish a connection with suitable police, medical, or fire responders, then calmly dispatch appropriate resources to the person or people in need. Telecommunicators may offer limited direct assistance to callers, such as reassurance or verbal help with administering first aid. Once responders are on the way, they stay tuned for new details that may emerge and provide extra information to the responding units.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Routing emergency response units to people in need of help
  • Potentially helping to save lives
  • Fielding routine calls for non-emergency assistance
  • Preventing criminal activities from becoming even more serious
2021 Employment
2031 Projected Employment
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

Public Safety Telecommunicators work full-time and sometimes 12-hour shifts, including nights, weekends, or holidays. 

Typical Duties

  • Field 911 calls and emergency text messages
  • Respond to incoming alarm systems communications or an alarm company’s representative
  • Use social media integrated into emergency response systems
  • Collect information from callers such as their name, location, and details about the emergency or situation they are calling about
  • Determine if an emergency response unit such as police, medical units, or fire department are required
  • Assess priority of incidents when there are multiple situations being called in
  • As needed, connect with responder agencies via mobile data terminal, two-way radios, or other forms of communication. Share and summarize relevant details of the incident
  • Dispatch and coordinate responder personnel and vehicles. Monitor their status en route and after they arrive on scene
  • Provide support and verbal instructions (such as how to render first aid) to the caller while they wait 
  • Share administrative, non-emergency-related information with callers 
  • Maintain records of all calls. Add details into databases/programs
  • Use state and local databases to search for information such as motor vehicle records, protective orders, arrest warrants, or other information about potential criminal suspects

Additional Responsibilities

  • Stay up to date on new software 
  • Complete refresher training and acquire training certifications, as needed
  • Memorize information such as commonly-used phone numbers, geographic locations, street names, and operating procedures 
  • Maintain strong relations with responder agencies
  • Train new workers on relevant duties
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Accuracy
  • Communication skills 
  • Composure
  • Decision-making
  • Dependability
  • Detail-oriented
  • Diligence
  • Empathy
  • Integrity 
  • Listening skills
  • Methodical 
  • Monitoring
  • Multi-tasking
  • Objectivity
  • Observant
  • Patient
  • Persistent
  • Relationship-building
  • Sense of urgency
  • Sound judgment 
  • Time management 

Technical Skills

Different Types of Organizations
  • Ambulance services
  • Government agencies
  • Universities
Expectations and Sacrifices

When emergency situations come up, citizens call 911 and are connected with Public Safety Telecommunicators. It’s up to these behind-the-scenes professionals to listen, ask the right questions, stay calm and focused, and determine the appropriate response services or other actions to take. Much depends on their skills and abilities, with lives and property often at risk while they are doing their jobs. Every moment is critical, and sometimes multiple calls come in around the same time, requiring Telecommunicators to prioritize emergencies while ensuring every caller is heard and responded to. 

The fast-paced, high-stakes environment can cause a lot of stress, yet the job demands workers maintain their calm demeanor and alertness over long periods (with some shifts lasting 12 hours while fielding dozens or even hundreds of calls). It can be an exhausting emotional rollercoaster ride, which is why Telecommunicators sometimes report feeling underappreciated or burned out.  

Current Trends

The reasons may be in dispute, but crime is undeniably on the rise in America and the capacity of first responders is often stretched thin in some areas. In recent years, workers in law enforcement, firefighting, and emergency medical response fields have increasingly utilized smartphones, body-worn cameras, mobile apps, AI, and upgraded public safety software to act more efficiently and effectively. Drones and real-time video feeds are also augmenting responders’ situational awareness as they enter hazardous situations. These technological advantages also aid Telecommunicators, but they require training to understand and maximize the full range of benefits. 

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

Public Safety Telecommunicators may have enjoyed participating in school activities where they got to coordinate the roles of others. They are usually calm and objective, able to deal rationally with situations that might make their peers anxious. Many Telecommunicators are supporters of law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency medical responders, and may have long had an interest in working within those fields. 

Education and Training Needed

Education Needed

  • Public Safety Telecommunicators don’t need a college degree. Many start with a high school diploma or equivalent 
  • Employers offer On-the-Job training to candidates who are highly motivated, and can pass a background check, drug screening, polygraph, plus medical exams (psychological, vision, and hearing). A minimum typing speed may also be required 
  • Knowledge of a second language is needed in some areas
  • Knowing and being able to talk others through CPR will be useful 
  • In addition to On-the-Job training, some agencies that run 9-1-1 call centers have a dispatch academy featuring academic coursework
    • Common training courses include local geography and agency policies and protocols, the use of computer-aided dispatch systems, and managing high-risk situations 
  • Many states require Telecommunicators be obtained a certification, which involves completion of a set amount of training hours along with continuing education every few years to stay current
  • Common certification options include:
    • Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials
      • Registered Public-Safety Leader
      • Certified Public-Safety Executive
    • International Academies of Emergency Dispatch
      • Emergency Telecommunicator Certification
      • Emergency Fire Dispatcher Instructor Certification
      • Emergency Medical Dispatcher Certification
      • Emergency Fire Dispatcher Certification
      • Emergency Police Dispatcher Certification
      • Executive Certification
      • Emergency Fire Dispatch - Q Certification
      • Emergency Police Dispatcher Instructor Certification
      • Emergency Telecommunicator Instructor Certification
      • Emergency Police Dispatcher - Q Certification
      • Emergency Medical Dispatcher Instructor Certification
    • National Emergency Number Association - Emergency Number Professional

                   Coast Guard National Maritime Center - STCW - GMDSS Radio Operator

Things to look for in an University
  • Public Safety Telecommunicators do not need a college degree, however some workers may opt to take public safety communications, law enforcement, or Emergency Medical Technician courses at their local community college first
  • Roughly 9% of applicants have “some college, no degree” and 10% have an associate’s degree. The rest are picked up with just a high school diploma or GED 
  • College is not required but could make you a more competitive candidate. Either way, once hired the employer will provide the training necessary for the position!
Things to do in High School and College
  • High school students can prepare by taking classes in typing, math, sociology, psychology, English composition, fitness, and computer science 
  • Learn CPR and be able to explain it to others 
  • Participate in school activities where you can hone your soft skills such as speaking, active listening, time management, and conflict resolution
  • Make connections with people in the first responder world! Look for volunteer opportunities with police and firefighters to gain a better understanding of what they do all day
  • Ask if you can do a “sit-along” in a 9-1-1 call center 
  • Check out articles and videos about Public Safety Telecommunicator duties
  • Try to get some job experience in customer service, administrative support, or a call center position
  • Decide if you want to pursue college/vocational training courses to beef up your job application
  • Study the geographic region where you intend to work. Get some maps and learn the major roads, most traveled street names, highways and freeways, major buildings and landmarks 
  • Read or watch the news to gain an understanding of pervasive problems in your town or city, such as areas where there are high levels of theft
  • Keep a list of contacts (including phone numbers or emails) who might serve as future job references 
  • Stay out of trouble so you can pass the criminal background check!
  • Practice your professional demeanor and learn to control your emotions during periods of high stress
Typical Roadmap
Public Safety Telecommunicator Gladeo Roadmap
How to Land your 1st job
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Talk with your supervisor and let them know your career goals. Ask for their advice on how to move up
  • Earn certifications that will qualify you for specialized duties or higher levels of responsibility 
  • Maintain your composure at all times and treat all callers with respect
  • Always be committed to helping callers receive the services they need
  • Stay up-to-date on new programs and technologies
  • Know, comply with, and enforce all applicable federal, state, local, and organizational policies
  • Synergize your efforts with first responders and work together as a team to render assistance
  • Train new workers thoroughly and hold them to high standards
  • Get involved with your community, conduct outreach activities, and build your reputation as someone who is there to help
  • Engage regularly with professional organizations. Attend events and keep networking and building relationships!
Plan B

Public Safety Telecommunicators have intense jobs and sometimes they take work-related stress home. The career field can be rewarding but it has a high turnover rate and isn’t for everyone. A few related career options include:

  • Air Traffic Controllers
  • Customer Service Representatives
  • Dispatchers, Except Police, Fire, and Ambulance
  • EMTs and Paramedics
  • Paramedics
  • Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers
  • Security Guards and Gambling Surveillance Officers
  • Security Workers
  • Switchboard Operators


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