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Emergency Services Dispatchers

The Job

Heart attacks. Car crashes. Mass shootings. Four-alarm fires. An abducted child. A tornado ripping through a small town. These are just a few of the types of calls emergency services dispatchers (ESDs) might receive during a typical shift in a 911 center (which is also called a communication center or a public safety answering point). As what many call the “first first responders,” ESDs have a wide variety of duties, including:

  • Answering 911 emergency telephone and alarm system calls and, sometimes, non-emergency calls
  • Asking the caller questions to determine his or her location and the nature of the emergency, and then making a quick assessment to determining what action is appropriate; ESDs often use guide cards that feature an approved set of questions for a particular issue, such as a suspected heart attack, to help in their assessments
  • Coordinating the dispatch of emergency responders by using computer-aided dispatch software and two-way radios
  • Providing basic medical instructions to callers until first responders can arrive
  • Monitoring the status of police, ambulance, and fire units in the field to provide additional information and ensure their safety, determine the availability of other units, and deploy back-up when necessary
  • Utilizing state and national crime reporting systems to provide information to first responders
  • Maintaining detailed computer records of phone calls and actions taken
  • Monitoring and operating TDD/TYY technology to communicate with hearing-impaired callers