Performing on the Job

dispatch 2
Emergency communications specialists, or dispatchers, are briefed at the start of their work shift and/or as pertinent information becomes available, and are expected to retain and use this information as needed during the coming shift (and longer).

Dispatchers rotate activities: Call Taking, Fire/EMS dispatching, and Police dispatching (each having different responsibilities and duties). By the end of the training cycle, trainees must be able to successfully perform each different task within the Communications Unit.

Emergency communications specialists continuously weigh and evaluate large volumes of information, considering numerous factors in determining appropriate responses to requests. (Examples: nature of the incident, proper response, availability of resources, potential safety of caller and response personnel, emotional and physical condition of caller, and location of incident). Dispatchers must accurately and rapidly interpret potentially disjointed information and make quick decisions, realizing that one or more person's safety and/or life may depend on those decisions. Decisions of dispatchers are subject to constant review, and should be based on training, experience, judgment, established procedures, and instinct. Expectations include using reasonable judgment, discretion, and control. Mistakes or errors in judgment and decision-making may result in constructive critique, correction, and/or formal disciplinary action.

Emergency communications specialists must have sufficient verbal and written communications skills to accurately and efficiently relay relevant information via radio or computer system. Written communications must be concise and to the point, while providing accurate information that may be important to the safety of the caller and/or responding personnel.

Emergency communications specialists must control conversations on recorded telephone lines and radio channels to obtain and relay needed information in an accurate, timely, and assertive manner. This may be complicated by aggressive, distraught, confused, profane, impaired by mental defect, or sometimes nearly incomprehensible callers.Dispatchers must maintain high professional standards when handling both emergency and non-emergency calls, and provide excellent customer service.

Any call may require the dispatcher to perform several activities simultaneously. (Examples: maintaining contact with a 911 caller while calling the appropriate response agency, updating incident information while monitoring radio traffic, or speaking with a caller while determining response unit availability.) Dispatchers often work at either a very rapid pace, over which they have little control due to workload and nature of incidents, or prolonged periods at a very slow pace.