Dispatchers are communications personnel responsible for receiving and transmitting pure and reliable messages, tracking vehicles and equipment, and recording other important information. A number of organizations, including police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

 and fire
Fire department
A fire department or fire brigade is a public or private organization that provides fire protection for a certain jurisdiction, which typically is a municipality, county, or fire protection district...

 departments, emergency medical services
Emergency medical services
Emergency medical services are a type of emergency service dedicated to providing out-of-hospital acute medical care and/or transport to definitive care, to patients with illnesses and injuries which the patient, or the medical practitioner, believes constitutes a medical emergency...

, taxicab
A taxicab, also taxi or cab, is a type of vehicle for hire with a driver, used by a single passenger or small group of passengers, often for a non-shared ride. A taxicab conveys passengers between locations of their choice...

 providers, trucking companies
Truck driver
A truck driver , is a person who earns a living as the driver of a truck, usually a semi truck, box truck, or dump truck.Truck drivers provide an essential service to...

, train stations, and public utility
Public utility
A public utility is an organization that maintains the infrastructure for a public service . Public utilities are subject to forms of public control and regulation ranging from local community-based groups to state-wide government monopolies...

 companies, use dispatchers to relay information and coordinate their operations. Essentially, the dispatcher is the "conductor
Conductor (transportation)
A conductor is a member of a railway train's crew that is responsible for operational and safety duties that do not involve the actual operation of the train. The title of conductor is most associated with railway operations in North America, but the role of conductor is common to railways...

" of the force, and is responsible for the direction of all units within it.

Public Safety Telecommunicator

Public safety
Public Safety
Public safety involves the prevention of and protection from events that could endanger the safety of the general public from significant danger, injury/harm, or damage, such as crimes or disasters .-See also:* By nation...

(also known as emergency dispatchers, Telecommunicators or 9-1-1
9-1-1 is the emergency telephone number for the North American Numbering Plan .It is one of eight N11 codes.The use of this number is for emergency circumstances only, and to use it for any other purpose can be a crime.-History:In the earliest days of telephone technology, prior to the...

 dispatchers) receive calls from individuals who need assistance from Firefighters, Police Officers, and Emergency Medical Services. Once information is obtained from the caller, these dispatchers activate the services necessary to respond to the nature of the call for help. Dispatchers are an integral part of the organization's success. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 36% of all dispatchers employed in the United States in 2004 were public safety dispatchers.

Transportation and service dispatchers

A number of other organizations use dispatchers to respond to service calls, coordinate transportation schedules, and to organize the delivery
Delivery (commerce)
Delivery is the process of transporting goods. Most goods are delivered through a transportation network. Cargo are primarily delivered via roads and railroads on land, shipping lanes on the sea and airline networks in the air...

 of materials. Truck dispatchers are employed by trucking companies to monitor the delivery of freight over long distances and coordinate delivery pickup and drop-off schedules. Bus and train dispatchers monitor the schedules of their respective transportation services and address any problems that arise during their operations. Tow-truck dispatchers respond to calls for emergency roadside assistance. Gas and water service dispatchers monitor their respective utilities and receive calls for emergency assistance that involve gas lines and water mains. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 26% of all dispatchers employed in the United States in 2004 worked for transportation and warehousing industries.

Airline or flight dispatchers

A flight dispatcher
Flight planner
A flight planner usually works for an airline or airport and is also known as a flight dispatcher. They must carefully plan all flight paths for a number of flights, taking into account wind speed, storms, aircraft performance and loading, and other conditions. Some dispatchers provide a flight...

 is a person responsible for planning and monitoring the progress of an aircraft journey. Depending on the type of certification the airline has, and depending on where the airline is based, both the pilot in command and the dispatcher are legally responsible for the safety of a flight. A dispatcher may have the authority to delay, divert or cancel a flight at any time, and a flight might not be able to be released without the signature of both the pilot in command
Pilot in command
The pilot in command of an aircraft is the person aboard the aircraft who is ultimately responsible for its operation and safety during flight. This would be the "captain" in a typical two- or three-pilot flight crew, or "pilot" if there is only one certified and qualified pilot at the controls of...

 and the dispatcher, again depending on the jurisdiction.

A dispatcher typically must be licensed by the aviation authority of that country. In order to obtain the licence, the candidate must demonstrate extensive knowledge of meteorology and aviation in general, to a level comparable to the holder of an airline transport pilot license.

The dispatcher uses sophisticated software tools to monitor the flight's progress and advises the flight crew of any circumstances that might affect flight safety. Shared responsibility adds a layer of checks and balances to aircraft operation and greatly improves safety.

Licensed flight dispatchers have to demonstrate extensive aviation knowledge equal to that of Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) holders (the FAA ATPL written exam and the FAA Dispatcher written exam are identical).

In some jurisdictions of the US, the dispatching duties and responsibilities are designated to flight followers. The main difference between a flight dispatcher and a flight follower is that the latter does not share legal responsibility for the operation of a flight. Also, followers are not required to attain a flight dispatcher's license, although they are usually encouraged to do so.

Working conditions and environment

Dispatchers are responsible for monitoring all of the communications within a specific geographic area. Public safety dispatchers are responsible for all emergency communications that occur within the jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is the practical authority granted to a formally constituted legal body or to a political leader to deal with and make pronouncements on legal matters and, by implication, to administer justice within a defined area of responsibility...

 of their department. These workers receive and document incoming calls, transmit messages to appropriate personnel, and keep logs of the daily activities of their personnel. Public safety dispatchers usually work in a police station, a fire station, or a hospital. Other dispatchers work in centralized communication centers associated with their specific company or service.

All types of dispatchers work with telephone
The telephone , colloquially referred to as a phone, is a telecommunications device that transmits and receives sounds, usually the human voice. Telephones are a point-to-point communication system whose most basic function is to allow two people separated by large distances to talk to each other...

s, radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

s, ACARS, and computer
A computer is a programmable machine designed to sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations. The particular sequence of operations can be changed readily, allowing the computer to solve more than one kind of problem...

s on a routine basis. They also monitor traffic patterns or other outside activity via video surveillance
Surveillance is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people. It is sometimes done in a surreptitious manner...

. As a result of sitting for long periods and using such equipment, dispatchers can develop eye strain and back problems. Many dispatchers must also work irregular hours to provide 24-hour service, which includes night, weekend, and holiday hours.

Public safety dispatchers are usually the first point of contact between emergency services and the public. When receiving incoming calls for help, these dispatchers must ascertain the nature, location, and extent of the emergency. The working conditions of a public safety dispatcher may be particularly stressful compared to others because handling a call in an inappropriate manner may delay or misdirect other emergency personnel, which could result in serious injury
-By cause:*Traumatic injury, a body wound or shock produced by sudden physical injury, as from violence or accident*Other injuries from external physical causes, such as radiation injury, burn injury or frostbite*Injury from infection...

 or even death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

. A dispatcher error in a San Juan County, New Mexico
San Juan County, New Mexico
-2010:Whereas according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau:*51.6% White*0.6% Black*36.6% Native American*0.4% Asian*0.1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander*3.5% Two or more races*7.2% Other races*19.1% Hispanic or Latino -2000:...

 vehicle crash, for example, may have cost lives in May 2006. The dispatcher in San Juan County was criticized for not using GPS tracking to locate a van that crashed with six people inside. The dispatcher received eleven calls from the trapped crash victims. By the time rescuers located the van four hours later, all six people were dead. Callers requesting emergency assistance are often in a state of heightened emotional distress, which makes it difficult to obtain the information needed to handle the call appropriately. In the San Juan County incident, the crash victims did not know where they were.

Human error can also produce deadly results for other types of dispatchers. A train dispatcher in Spain was found guilty of negligent homicide for a head-on train collision that occurred in June 2003. Nineteen people died and forty-eight were injured in a crash where the dispatcher allowed a passenger train to leave a station when a freight train was approaching the station on the same line.

Like very similar controlling jobs, such as air traffic controllers, dispatcher positions can be notoriously stressful and full of non-stop work.

Training and employment

Employment as a dispatcher does not usually require a level of education higher than a high school diploma
High school diploma
A high school diploma is a diploma awarded for the completion of high school. In the United States and Canada, it is considered the minimum education required for government jobs and higher education. An equivalent is the GED.-Past diploma styles:...

. Employers prefer candidates with computer and clerical
Clerk, the vocational title, commonly refers to a white-collar worker who conducts general office or, in some instances, sales tasks. It is also occasionally used to refer to third-year medical students completing a medical clerkship. The responsibilities of clerical workers commonly include record...

 skills, communication
Communication is the activity of conveying meaningful information. Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender's intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast...

 skills, and the ability to work fast under pressure.

Candidates for employment as public safety dispatchers may be required to pass written, oral, or performance tests and are governed by state or local regulations. Public safety dispatchers may also have to obtain certifications
Professional certification
Professional certification, trade certification, or professional designation, often called simply certification or qualification, is a designation earned by a person to assure qualification to perform a job or task...

 and attend additional training before they are employed by state or local governments to dispatch for police, fire, or emergency medical services. The level of training required for these dispatchers is typically the most extensive in comparison to other dispatch positions.

A standard certification requirement for public safety dispatchers is Terminal Operator certification for access to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Crime Information Center
National Crime Information Center
The National Crime Information Center is the United States' central database for tracking crime-related information. Since 1967, the NCIC has been maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, and is interlinked with similar systems that each...

 (NCIC) database system. Access to this database system often allows additional access to the state-level system comparable to NCIC which allows public safety dispatchers to access motor vehicle registration and drivers license information as well as wants or warrants by various law enforcement agencies both statewide and national.

In addition to certifications, specialized training is also required or appropriated to public safety dispatchers. As public safety dispatchers are the first contact made between the public and emergency services, public safety dispatchers need to be able to extract a vast array of information out of the caller. Such specialized training can include: suicide intervention, hostage negotiation, bomb threats, tactical dispatching (for SWAT teams), domestic violence and domestic and foreign terrorism countermeasures. Many are also trained as Emergency Medical Dispatcher
Emergency medical dispatcher
An Emergency medical dispatcher is a professional telecommunicator, tasked with the gathering of information related to medical emergencies, the provision of assistance and instructions by voice, prior to the arrival of Emergency Medical Services, and the dispatching and support of EMS resources...

s, able to give first aid instructions to victims or families prior to EMS arrival.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics
Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a unit of the United States Department of Labor. It is the principal fact-finding agency for the U.S. government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics. The BLS is a governmental statistical agency that collects, processes, analyzes, and...

, 266,000 people were employed as dispatchers in 2004. Employment for dispatcher is projected to grow as fast as the average (an increase of 9 to 17 percent) through the year 2014. In addition, it is expected that a number of current dispatchers will either transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force, which will result in an increase of openings.


The primary tool of the Dispatcher is the dispatch console. A dispatch console is a system that interfaces to a private or public radio system, allowing the dispatcher to communicate directly with all field workers, police officers, EMS personnel, and others in order to coordinate their activities. Dispatchers use various hardware
Hardware is a general term for equipment such as keys, locks, hinges, latches, handles, wire, chains, plumbing supplies, tools, utensils, cutlery and machine parts. Household hardware is typically sold in hardware stores....

 and software to create dispatch.

See also

  • Air traffic controller
    Air traffic controller
    Air traffic controllers are the people who expedite and maintain a safe and orderly flow of air traffic in the global air traffic control system. The position of the air traffic controller is one that requires highly specialized skills...

  • Emergency Medical Dispatcher
    Emergency medical dispatcher
    An Emergency medical dispatcher is a professional telecommunicator, tasked with the gathering of information related to medical emergencies, the provision of assistance and instructions by voice, prior to the arrival of Emergency Medical Services, and the dispatching and support of EMS resources...

  • Northern 911
    Northern 911
    Northern 911 is a company based out of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada that provides 9-1-1 call centre services for VOIP & POTS providers such as Rogers Telecom, Primus Canada, SaskTel, etc. as a Public Safety Answering Point...

  • Women in firefighting

External links

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