A fire dispatcher receives calls from citizens reporting fires and medical emergencies and provides them with appropriate assistance. He may also respond to fire alarms that automatically alert the fire department when activated. He normally contacts available fire and emergency personnel via a two-way radio, cell phone or computer to alert them of problems and their location. If emergency personnel from other agencies are required, the dispatcher is normally expected to alert them as well.
When a fire dispatcher receives a distress call, his first responsibility is commonly to assess the urgency of the situation. If the call can be handled by verbal communication, he is generally expected to talk the caller through the necessary steps to alleviate the problem. This may be the case if the fire is contained outdoors in a barbecue pit or the medical emergency is not life threatening.
In the event the crisis requires the assistance of emergency professionals, the fire dispatcher is typically required to dispatch appropriate personnel to the scene. After he dispatches the call, he ordinarily remains on the telephone line to calm the caller. He may provide medical or first aid guidance, information on how to remain safe until help arrives or advise the caller to make sure others in the vicinity are safe.
An effective fire dispatcher is normally required to have great attention to detail. In addition to carefully listening to the facts provided by callers, he is ordinarily required to monitor the locations of emergency response units via computerized tracking monitors. If local units are unavailable or units from neighboring areas are needed based on the scope of the emergency, he is generally expected to contact all units in an efficient manner. Knowing how to quickly alert other agencies, such as civil defense and public works, is generally required of a fire dispatcher in case the emergency poses a threat to the general public.
This job customarily requires meticulous file and record maintenance as well as a high level of discretion. The fire dispatcher normally maintains a roster of contact information for key personnel and has access to sensitive and personal information. If automatic fire alarms are used in his geographic area of responsibility, he is ordinarily expected to assure they are regularly and properly maintained. He may also be in charge of incident reports filed by assorted emergency personnel.
The position of fire dispatcher normally requires a high school diploma or equivalent. Good communication skills are highly desirable, as is the ability to remain calm under pressure. Most fire dispatcher positions provide new hires with on-the-job training.