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What does a Public Safety Dispatcher do?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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A public safety dispatcher is an individual who works in a call center, usually an emergency communications center, in order to dispatch emergency services. The most common emergency services dispatched are police, fire and ambulance. In some cases, the coast guard, national guard and other services may be called, especially if the emergency is at sea or is larger in scale. The training required to become a public safety dispatcher includes basic CPR and first aid, and may also include psychiatric and stress tests.

The first thing a public safety dispatcher must do is assess a situation when a caller contacts the center. The first question typically asked is, "What is your emergency?" The dispatcher will also receive a number of different pieces of information on his or her computer screen, such as the telephone number of the caller and the approximate location, in most cases. This helps the dispatcher know where to send emergency services.

Once the public safety dispatcher determines the nature of the emergency, then the dispatcher must decide which service to send. In most cases, this is not hard to determine, but in some situations, more than one emergency service may be needed. For example, if a caller reports an assault or shooting, both the police and ambulance services may be called. Even the fire department may be called to such scenes in some communities to provide backup to medical personnel.

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After deciding which service is needed, the emergency dispatcher then sends a call over a radio network to that service. That call will generally first sound an emergency alert, followed by the address and the nature of the emergency. The first responders will then proceed to the scene and may ask for more information or clarification of issues while en route.

In most cases, the public safety dispatcher will stay on the line with a person until emergency services arrive at the location. The practice helps in a couple of different ways. First, a calm, reassuring voice keeps the caller calmer in what could be a very stressful situation. Also, if circumstances change, the dispatcher can relay this information immediately without relying on the caller to call back with additional information.

The public safety dispatcher, after a call is completed, may be responsible for logging the call on paperwork, though it will also be recorded. Information on the written log may include the time of the call, the number, nature of the emergency, and how long the call lasted. This information may be important for law enforcement investigating cases involving criminal activity.

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