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911 operators, also called dispatchers, play a critical role in the field of public safety. Often they are the first point of contact between citizens and the authorities. They are responsible for making split-second decisions, prioritizing emergencies and managing several phone and radio channels simultaneously.
The primary task of any 911 operator is to answer the 911 line. During this critical phase, dispatchers must be able to elicit and prioritize important information, such as ascertaining the nature of the call, obtaining suspect descriptions (if necessary), providing instructions to the caller, and determining the type of response needed.
Through the use of two-way radios, 911 operators communicate with police units. They direct them to calls, track each on-duty officer's location, and ensure their safety by maintaining frequent contact with them.
Because of the specialized nature of firefighting, operators must be familiar with terms and conditions that firefighters will use when describing incidents. They must be aware of the apparatus available and their specific capabilities. Fire dispatchers must also understand the operations of the Incident Command System and how each unit fits into this personnel management system.
Emergency Medical Dispatch
Emergency medical dispatchers are trained to provide basic medical assistance via the phone. They must assess a patient's condition by asking appropriate questions in order to determine the proper course of action to take until the arrival of emergency medical technicians.
Operators are often required to use computers to conduct warrant searches in various public safety and law enforcement databases. These searches can range from checking someone's driver's license to investigating someone's background in search of any pending arrest warrants.
E.H. McKenzie is an information technology professional who has been involved in writing technical and training manuals for the past 10 years. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and has focused on writing for eHow on topics involving the fire service and military history themes.