Public Safety Dispatchers, also known as Communications Specialists, are the vital link between the public and police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. To be a dispatcher, you need to be a person capable of making decisions, multi-tasking and staying calm. It can be fast-paced and exciting. Dispatchers answer phone calls, evaluate the type of call and dispatch the information to the public safety personnel that will respond.
Dispatchers are non-sworn civilian personnel. They must go through an application and selection process that includes a thorough background investigation. Dispatchers will then be paired with an experienced communications specialist for approximately three months. The trainee will learn about the Communities they are dispatching for in order to provide the best level of service to the citizens. A trainee will learn how each agency works, what is involved at certain calls for service, how to listen and speak to callers on the phone and how to listen and speak on the radios. A trainee will need to learn how to enter data into the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system, retrieve and enter information from the database. There are many facets to the job that will be taught to you through training modules. Part of that training deals with coping with stressful situations for the caller who needs help, learning about human relations, learning about how radio systems function, running motor vehicle driver histories and licenses, fires and hazardous materials.
WORKING CONDITIONS & BENEFITS
Besides the Town of Goffstown benefits, a dispatcher works a rotating schedule that allows for a three-day weekend off, every other weekend. Most agencies will work a rotating or fixed shift that includes an eight-hour day of dayshift, evenings and midnights with a weekend off only after six weeks. In Goffstown, a dispatcher gets a weekend off, every other week and it is for three days. Though the shifts are longer per day, it is busy enough to make the day go by fast. Because dispatchers work under extreme stress at times with rotating shifts, the Goffstown Police Department recognizes their need to relax and be with their friends and family on weekends. The Emergency Communications Center requires two dispatchers in the Center to handle the volume of calls.
Currently, the Center is staffed with eight full-time dispatchers and a supervisor. The Center also employs part-time dispatchers who cover shifts during vacations, sick leave or during major events that require more than two dispatchers. Major snow-storms or other related weather events often will require up to four or five dispatchers just to keep up with the volume of calls. The Center currently has two identical dispatching consoles that are each equipped with a PC for the CAD system, the database, report writing, paging systems, and other applications. Each console has a radio monitoring system that allows for dispatchers to speak over the air to personnel in the field. They also need to monitor special alerts from the State of NH or Homeland Security, incoming 911 calls, building security cameras, fire-box alarms, burglar alarms, and weather monitoring systems.
The center also has logging recorders with instant playback in order to retrieve a phone call or radio transmission in order to quickly verify information, such as a address from a frantic caller. A person calling the Center will not get a recorded or automated system. Instead, every call is answered by a dispatcher in a professional and courteous manner. A dispatcher will obtain information from callers or individuals coming into the police station. They may deal with people in emergency situations, including those who are emotionally distraught, angry or difficult to understand. They need to quickly assess a situation and prioritize calls. They need to remain calm. They need to communicate tactfully and effectively with the public, public safety personnel and others. They need to understand and follow oral and written instructions. They skills such as learning how to operate the radio systems, telephones, several computer systems and application; and perform routine office support.