Their work involves answering inquiries, referring calls to appropriate law enforcement agencies or emergency medical services companies, determining the response requirements and prioritizing situations, and dispatching units according to a set of established procedures.
911 dispatcher jobs require excellent communication skills and the ability to work under stressful situations. 911 operators take all applicable information from the caller, including details and the address of the emergency. Through gathering of information, 911 operators are then able to dispatch the appropriate team or transfer the call to the applicable agency. Many 911 dispatchers are also qualified to provide medical information to the caller until emergency help arrives.
What to Expect When You Call 9-1-1
It is estimated that on the average, an individual will call for emergency assistance at least twice during their lifetime. Fear and helplessness can be reduced or eliminated by knowing when to call and what to expect when you phone 9-1-1.
Be prepared to briefly explain what your exact situation is. Dispatchers today are trained to provide real-time instruction simultaneously dispatching Emergency Medical Service (EMS) professionals to your location. Listen to the dispatcher and follow their instructions.
Most public safety agencies have access to a variety of highly trained personnel, specialized equipment, and vehicles. To ensure that the right people with the right equipment are sent to the correct location, the 9-1-1 dispatcher must ask you specific questions. Sometimes in an emergency, it may seem like these questions are being asked to determine whether or not you need help. In actuality, they are being asked to determine the level of help you need. Remember, trained dispatchers never ask questions that are unnecessary.
The dispatcher will always ask you to say the address of the emergency and your callback number for verification. Having you say it to them (or say it twice if they don’t have a computerized 9-1-1 screen) must always done to be sure it is heard and copied down correctly by the dispatcher. They know how important it is to do it “right” and not just “fast”. There are four universal questions the dispatcher needs in order to put their knowledge and experience to work for you quickly and effectively after the address and callback telephone number of the emergency have been verified as correct:
- Person’s problem or the type of incident (“Tell me exactly what happened?”).
- Approximate age.
- Is he or she conscious?
- Is he or she breathing?
Getting this critical information from the caller typically takes less than 30 seconds. After that, you may be asked to do nothing, get out of an unsafe environment, or stay on the line and assist in providing care for the ill or injured person.
In all cases, remember the most important thing you can do when calling 9-1-1 is to LISTEN CAREFULLY. Always do whatever the dispatcher asks you to do. Don’t tell them to “hurry”. They already know that. Every question they ask has an important reason. That’s why it’s in their protocol.
Dialing 9-1-1 On A Cell Phone
The use of cellular phones to activate EMS is growing very quickly. However, at the current time, wireless technology is ahead of public service capabilities.
It is important to know that the system that identifies a caller’s location and telephone number currently does not work with wireless phones. This makes it difficult or impossible to send help to people who cannot identify their location. If you are calling from a cell phone and do not know your location, the dispatcher will work with you to help determine your exact location or where to send help.
It is highly recommended that you take a certified course in CPR and first aid. Even when highly trained dispatchers and EMS professionals are readily accessible in the community, prompt, properly administered first aid care still can mean the difference between life and death, rapid vs. prolonged recovery, and temporary vs. permanent disability. These courses are available through authorized Safety and Health Institute organizations.
Simply knowing when to call and what to expect when you phone 9-1-1 can help reduce fear and helplessness in an emergency. When calling 9-1-1, keep in mind that the most important think you can do is to LISTEN CAREFULLY and DO EXACTLY what the dispatcher asks you to do so they can assist you through times of crisis, confusion, and distress.
Important Safety Issues
When a 911 call is received from a phone other than a cell phone your name, address and phone number is displayed as the phone company reports it, so please be sure to verify all the information with the 911 operator/dispatcher.
Cell phones that are pre-programmed to dial 911 take a lot of time away from the 911 operators after you have accidentally dialed, either by dropping the phone or sitting on it. While they are answering your accidental phone call, someone who has an emergency will be unable to get through.
When to Use 911
Call the emergency line to report an incident that requires immediate assistance of Police, Fire or EMS personnel. Give exact location and details of any injuries or deaths. If you are reporting a crime, pay particular attention to the suspect’s physical characteristics; height, weight, hair color, clothing. If a vehicle is involved, give a clear description of the color, make, body style, license plate number and direction of travel. Do not attempt to apprehend or detain suspects.
Use 911 for the dispatch of Police, Fire and EMS.
Teach your children how to use 911 wisely in case of an emergency.
Use pay phones to report crimes in progress. (A 911 call is free.)
Use your cell phone only to report an emergency. (Not as a convenience for a toll free call).
Don’t call 911 when the power goes off or the weather is threatening. Call the utility that services your area, and monitor television and radio for weather information.
Don’t call 911 to see how much a traffic ticket is or to check and see if someone is in jail.
Don’t call 911 if your cat is stuck in a tree or on top of the house.
Don’t call 911 for directions.
Don’t call 911 to report a crime such as a theft, burglary, use of credit card, or phone complaint unless these crimes are in progress or have just occurred.
The following are some but not all types of reports that should be called into the non-emergency phone number: (870)898-5115
Theft or Attempted Theft of or from an auto (unless in progress or just occurred)
Accidents (unless there are injuries)
Thefts of bicycles, lawnmowers or small items, when no suspects are in the area
Burglaries, if not in progress
Harassing phone calls
Noise complaints to include loud music