So you want to become a DISPATCHER
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So you want to become a DISPATCHER
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So you wanna be a dispatcher?

If you're considering joining our ranks....

  • Learn how to type! At least 35 - 40 WPM
  • Practice typing what you hear, as you hear it.
  • Practice typing while YOU talk. It's not that easy! You'll need this skill...
  • Make arrangements to "sit-along" or tour a variety of Communications Centers.
  • Forget what you've seen on Rescue 9-1-1 -- it won't help that much. Every Comm Center is different.
  • Practice listening skills. Watch TV and read a book, listen to the radio at the same time.
  • Learn how to read a map, and to give directions to someone over the phone.....
  • Learn the phonetic alphabets (both of 'em!) and practice saying license plates out loud.
    "Three David Adam Henry Four Seven Nine" or "Three Delta Alpha Hotel Four Seven Nine."
  • Check around for Public Safety Communications courses at local community colleges -- take a class!
  • Take 1st Aid & CPR courses -- it might not be a requirement, but it's a valuable skill.
  • Buy or borrow a radio scanner. Honest. Listen to the professionals! Hear how they say things.....
  • Subscribe to the various Dispatch-related publications, such as Dispatch Monthly, PowerPhone, etc.
  • TAKE a course from some of the various Public Safety training vendors!
  • Learn how to hold your.... well, don't drink a lot of liquids, okay?

So you've been hired -- what now?


  1. Keep friends outside the Biz -- they are valuable folks and will help to keep you from getting totally discouraged about "the public."
  2. DO NOT TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY -- whether it's said to you on the phone by an irate/hysterical/distraught/annoyed/disgruntled/crazy caller or over the radio by an officer under the pressure of the moment in the field. Unless the words are preceded by: "YOU, Dispatcher So-And-So, I know you personally and I think you're a total shit and you can't do anything right no matter how hard you try." If those specific words aren't there, then blow it off, no matter what is said.

    You will take an incredible amount of verbal abuse by the public, but they don't mean it. They are under the stress of whatever it is that is happening to THEM, and they haven't been trained how to handle their own incidents -- you will be the professional to whom they've turned for assistance, and yes, they do curse at you and think you're an idiot because you are asking so many questions, etc. You are just a target; they've got YOU on the phone, and they sure aren't calling to say happy birthday, so of course they aren't in a good mood to begin with.

    Regarding officers, well, those folks actually consider dispatchers another TOOL, and that tool is reached through a radio, which is something they don't have anywhere near the training to use that you will have. It's easy for them to de-personalize a voice coming out of one of their cop-implements. (Handcuffs, gun, chemical spray, radio. A tool). A snotty, annoyed, frustrated tone of voice generally is NOT directed at YOU, personally, but in reaction to the situation the officer finds him/herself in at the moment he/she is transmitting. You just happen to be at the other end of that radio.
  3. Have fun. Understand that your sense of humor is going to be warped. Honest. You will find the funniest things about stuff that isn't funny to regular folks. CONTINUE TO HAVE FUN -- don't get overwhelmed by disaster, bad things that happen to folks, and also don't get blase about things. Find the humor in the stupid things YOU will do, too, as you learn and as you simply do your job. Poke fun at yourself, regularly.
  4. For god's sake, keep up with or develop an exercise regimen. It's a sedentary job, and often the only "feel good" thing you can do is EAT during your shift. Exercise helps alleviate stress, too. Don't get into the habit of "choir practice" after work, drinking in the parking lots or wherever, very often. Special events, sure..... but not on a regular basis. Alcohol is too easy to develop a liking for, and you can use it to "stuff feelings" when they are too much for you..... not a good thing.
  5. Don't sleep with anyone you work with. Do I need to explain why?
  6. Make an effort to remember and practice that the public is your customer -- think customer service! Learn how to express that a particular request is not a service provided by your agency, but don't be snippy or sound bothered by the ignorance of the caller. They watch TV and think what they've seen is the truth, everywhere. You will disappoint them, on many an occasion, but you don't need to piss them off or hurt their feelings in doing so.
  7. Be the best that you can be. Don't do "just what's expected" but go that extra step or seven, eight, or nine to follow through.
  8. Develop your own specialty -- if you like computers, learn all the seldom-used formats and dazzle your co-workers. Become an expert in SOMETHING at your Center. Don't be an ass about it, though, be helpful and available if the task is something someone else is struggling with.
  9. DON'T PLAY ON THE RADIO. Yes, you may develop a distinctive style of your own, but always remember that the public listens to scanners (and so do the brass, on occasion!) and being "cute" on the air is embarrassing for the professionals in this career field. Little stuff is acceptable, generally, like saying "Ralph Prince, as in son of a king..." to clarify a last name that may be hard to understand over the radio. (A better way is to spell it phonetically, but there are those moments..... Make sure you don't have one of those moments at the wrong time.)
  10. Don't do recreational reading if you can resist it. I NEVER did recreational reading at work. Yes, I was bored silly sometimes, but I was always ready to answer the phone or the radio without having to lose my place in a novel or magazine.... and no officer EVER saw me reading or knitting or doing my bills at the radio or 9-1-1 consoles. It looks bad to anyone visiting the center! (Such pastimes may not be allowed where you work, anyway...)
  11. Everybody likes to share information - it's what we DO. Just don't get caught up in gossiping about your co-workers, their families, or officers and their personal lives. It will always come back to bite you, trust me.
  12. Did I mention "have fun?" Enjoy your job. Enjoy the variety of things you get to be involved with, in the background, where few folks ever see you or even understand that YOU are the first responder and if it weren't for what you do, those officers wouldn't be able to do what they do so well. *grin*
  13. Learn to get your recognition and sense of reward from within yourself. Know that what you've done after a particularly difficult incident is a good thing, but don't expect anyone to pat you on the back or tell you regularly that you ARE doing a good job. Folks just simply take that for granted, and forget to mention it to you or anyone else.
  14. When something awful happens at work, whether it's to a member of the public or one of "our own" field personnel, understand that you WILL have feelings about it that may take some time to process. Don't keep it stuffed inside -- talk about it with your partners, talk to a counselor or other trained professional, if necessary. Don't let it build up inside -- no matter HOW stoic you think you have to be.
  15. Your co-workers are your PARTNERS. Yes, some of them have some different views on things than you do, and some of them may even be embittered and calloused -- or overly reactive. Teamwork happens when everyone complements everyone else. We lean on the strengths of some and help hold up those who are struggling. It's especially true in Public Safety Communications.
  16. Be careful what you say on the phone, over the radio, and anywhere near an "open mike." Remove certain words and phrases from your vocabulary while at work. A hilarious punch-line to some joke and/or the resultant laughter just might be heard by a caller or a field unit. And, oddly enough, he or she may think someone's making fun of him/her. whoops!
  17. Have I said "Have fun" enough? Yes, you can reconcile fun and professionalism.


  • You can carry on more than 4 converstations simultaneously!
  • You have a bladder capacity of a tanker!
  • You can resume a converstation with coworkers 4 hours later, in midsentence and everyone knows that you are talking about!
  • You have a long term telephonic relationship with one or more paranoid schizophrenic PTSD suffering relatives of a public official.
  • You have ever had to explain to a college educated, gainfully employed, tax paying property owner that: His/her child's lack of interest in vegetables was not a police matter!
  • You inform your new teenage driver, "I will always know!"
  • You have ever muttered the phrase: "They let him carry a GUN?"

So you've a dispatcher for a while -- what do you need to remember?

Ten Rules For Being Human


  1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it's yours to keep for the entire period.
  2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, "life".
  3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The "failed" experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately "work".
  4. Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.
  5. Learning lessons does not end. There's no part of life that doesn't contain its lessons. If you're alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.
  6. "There" is no better a place than "here". When your "there" has become a "here", you will simply obtain another "there" that will again look better than "here".
  7. Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
  8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
  9. Your answers lie within you. The answers to life's questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
  10. You will forget all this. :D


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