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There are many routes available to become a radio dispatcher. Careers in this field include employment with local governments, railroads, taxi services, private freight and document delivery companies, and other businesses. Most positions require a high school diploma or general educational development (GED) certificate as the minimal education preparation. While there is one US apprenticeship program to train employees to become a radio dispatcher, training for the vast majority of positions is conducted on the job as the new employee is mentored through required job skills. Radio dispatcher positions are generally divided into those related to emergency services and those related to movement of materials, freight or passengers.
The most common means to become a radio dispatcher is through employment with a taxi or limousine service, a railroad, a trucking company or a freight and document delivery company. As noted above, most training is conducted on the job as a supervisor instructs the new employee on company regulations and procedures. Radio dispatchers often work with multi-line telephone systems, mobile telephones, two-way radios, computers and even global positioning systems. Helpful traits to aid an individual to become a radio dispatcher include excellent verbal communication skills, excellent organizational skills and an ability to quickly recognize and solve problems. Salaries vary depending upon the company's size, any union representation and the degree of training, skill and experience required.
Approximately one-third of all radio dispatcher positions are related to the emergency services of police, fire and rescue squad — or ambulance — services. Most of these dispatcher positions are held by local government employees responsible for administration of the locality's 911 or emergency services. Additional skills may be required to become a radio dispatcher under these conditions. A minimum typing speed is often required as is training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), crisis management, police radio codes and basic life support (BLS). 911 radio dispatchers often work with civilians and police, fire or ambulance workers to coordinate and document emergency services.
Pre-employment screening may be necessary to become a radio dispatcher associated with a local government's police department. These evaluations may consist of criminal background checks, fingerprint card submissions, credit checks and significant character reference evaluation. Certification in CPR or BLS may be required prior to application or before training commences. The training involved to become a radio dispatcher for emergency services is often more formal and longer in duration than training for non-emergency positions due to the urgent and sometimes life-threatening nature of many of the received calls. Salaries are often higher for this type of radio dispatcher position because of the additional skills required.
@Markerrag -- I see what you mean. A dispatcher is a lot more critical to the role of emergency responders than most people realize (or, at least I assume they don't realize that).
They are also very important in trucking (one of my state's leading industries). When things change for truckers, the dispatcher is the one that gets that information and communicates it to drivers. Without them, drivers could literally get lost.
I learned how critical radio dispatchers are to emergency services a few years ago. I was visiting with the chief of police of a city near hear about his new police station. I asked him what his favorite thing was about it.
He said that, perhaps, his favorite thing is that it wouldn't have the squirrel problem that the old police station did. He explained that the antenna wires for all the communications equipment ran through the attic and the that squirrels that had infested the place would chew through those wires from time to time. That led to trouble as all the patrol cars were out of contact with dispatch, and that made assigning cops here and there was next to impossible.
A lack of squirrels sounded like a ridiculous reason to like a new police station. But, when the chief explained why those things were a problem, I understood quite well.
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