- Dispatchers provide the public access to fire fighting and emergency medical services. Their job is complex. They are responsible for gathering and recording information adequate to accurately locate an emergency; determine the minimum, appropriate response; and initiate that response. To accomplish these tasks, dispatchers must be trained in their district's geography and special hazards, their response system's capabilities and those of neighboring systems, and how to operate complex communication systems.
- A core competency for any dispatcher is the ability to communicate. For the fire-rescue dispatcher, communications can be split into two realms: interpersonal and technical. Interpersonal communication skill is critical when receiving calls from the public. The dispatcher must know how to calm panicked callers so she may collect the necessary information and then concisely convey it to responders. The new dispatcher must also be thoroughly trained in traditional and emerging telephone technologies, radio theory and systems, computer-aided dispatch and TTY.
Fire Dispatch Training
- Fire department dispatchers are trained to understand fire fighting operations. This training includes fire fighting tactics and procedures, fire apparatus (fire engines, ladder trucks, etc.) and equipment, fire fighting terminology, hazardous materials, the National Incident Management System and other pertinent topics. Because fire departments are often the response agency for many other types of emergencies, dispatchers are also frequently trained in other potential fire service missions such as search and rescue, technical rescue and terrorism-related fields.
Emergency Medical Dispatch
- Emergency ambulance dispatch is usually co-located with fire service dispatch centers. Some emergency call centers provide what is formally called emergency medical dispatch (EMD) services. Beyond the simple receipt and dispatch of emergency medical calls, EMD centers provide a more comprehensive service through prearrival medical instructions, which the caller can use to provide care to the patient while the ambulance or other emergency aid is en route. Other topics included in EMD training are anatomy and physiology and legal considerations.
- Many emergency call centers provide on-the-job training that incorporates varying degrees of training based on their specific needs and local laws and requirements. Trainees typically require three to six months to become proficient. Most call centers require a minimum of a high school diploma to be eligible for training and employment. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials offers classroom and distance learning certification programs in fire service, EMD and law enforcement communications.