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911 Emergency: Call Centers Can’t Find Workers

If you're interested in the job, here's what you need to know.

If you thrive under pressure and love helping people, a job as a 911 dispatcher could be the perfect role for you.

Currently, there’s a nationwide shortage of 911 distress call dispatchers, and it’s become a serious issue in many cities. The people who currently work as dispatchers have been left to fill the void, reportedly working over 200 hours of overtime in a month.

In some cities, the need to fill more dispatching positions is dire.

“For a lot of them, the requirement is, ‘We need a warm body,'” Christy Williams, director of 911 for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, told the Wall Street Journal.

And this is a growing problem around the country.

“It’s a nationwide problem,” Rhonda Harper, Independence County’s 911 administrator told The Kansas City Star in 2017.

phone call headset photo
Getty Images | William Thomas Cain

Who’s Fit For The Job?

Of course, training for this role is essential, but if you’re wondering if you could be a good fit for the job, Harper says that people who can multi-task and communicate well are best-suited to this role.

“Waitresses and waiters, they can make a great dispatcher because they can do that multitasking and they can talk to people,” Harper told The Kansas City Star. “And that’s a big part of this job.”

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Training Process

If you’re interested in pursuing a job as a dispatcher, it’s important to understand the training process.

A qualified staff is key because as Harper puts it, “otherwise you’re putting your citizens at risk and we won’t do that.”

According to 911 Dispatcher Edu, the training process typically includes courses in:

  • Advanced First Aid/CPR/AED
  • Basic telecommunications
  • Critical incident stress
  • Domestic violence
  • Emergency medical dispatch
  • Hazardous materials
  • Suicide intervention
  • Terrorism
  • Text Telephone (TTY) training

Basic Qualifications

The basic qualifications for the job are that you must be 18 years or older, possess a GED and in some cases, have a valid driver’s license.

police car photo
Getty Images | Chris Hondros

Pros And Cons Of The Job

Unfortunately, the role of a dispatcher is challenging because of the intense subject matter. The dispatcher must understand that the person on the other end of the phone could be in danger or might have just witnessed something terrible, and the emotional toll of what they are experiencing may be extreme.

One dispatcher, Cameron West, spoke to LifeHacker about the job’s most difficult moments:

“The worst part is dealing with children who need help. It always takes a toll on you mentally when a child is injured, or worse, dies. They really are the hardest calls to handle, but of course we have to,” West told LifeHacker. “I remember shortly after my daughter was born I dealt with a baby girl who was not breathing. That was hard. We did get her breathing and she was okay when they got her to the hospital though, and that’s why I do this job. I love helping people.”

As West pointed out, a role like this can also be rewarding for the same reasons.

Ben Chlapek, the Mid America Regional Council’s public safety training coordinator, echoed those sentiments, noting that he appreciates that this job allows him to help those who need it most.

“It’s one of the most difficult jobs that you would ever love,” he told The Kansas City Star. “When you have lives on the line and you have people depending on you to act quickly and make good decisions … you have to utilize all of the tools that are provided to you.”

What do you think? Could this be the job for you?