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Duties of Dispatchers

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Dispatchers are essentially in charge of ensuring that personnel, travelers and goods depart one location and arrive at another in a timely, effective and safe manner for both civilian and military operations. Dispatchers are vital to the industries they serve.

Law Enforcement and Emergency Medical Services

Emergency service dispatchers work for police, sheriff and other law enforcement agencies, fire departments and emergency medical services. The duties of emergency service dispatchers include answering calls and prioritizing the level of emergency, dispatching the appropriate personnel, operating the phone and computer systems handling pertinent information about the emergency and assisting the caller to communicate critical information about the emergency accurately. In small departments, dispatchers may also be required to collect and catalog evidence and incident information and perform clerical support.

Taxi Cab

Dispatchers for taxi services are also known as starters. Dispatch duties include answering called-in requests for cab service and sending the cabbies to the customer via radio, cell phone or computer. Cab dispatchers also assist drivers with directions to pickup locations and around closed streets and traffic pileups. When emergency assistance is needed by a driver, it is often the responsibility of the dispatcher to request required services.

Airport and Airline

These dispatchers need licensed airman certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. Aircraft dispatcher/air traffic controller responsibilities include controlling takeoffs and landings at the airport, analyzing weather and making flight course adjustments, ensuring fuel and maintenance requirements are fulfilled before takeoff and canceling or rescheduling flights for any reason that might put passengers and crew at risk. Preparing flight plans and dispatch releases are also part of the job. While dispatched and incoming planes are in the air, it is the responsibility of the dispatcher to keep pilots apprised of any changes of flight plan because of weather, traffic delays or fly-zone closures.

Train and Rail

The responsibilities of this job are similar to those in the airline industry, and the dispatcher/controller is equally accountable for the safety of train crews, passengers and cargo. The computerized dispatch system used by almost all railroad companies has active monitors with colored lines representing train activity; dispatchers must interpret this activity and communicate it to engineers and other controllers. Periodically, dispatchers will be required to override the computer and make manual switching adjustments.


A native southwesterner, Pat Linn owned an advertising agency for more than 20 years, parlayed technical writing/editing into editorships with "American Sailor," "Rags Nor'Easter," and other trade/consumer magazines, is a seasoned copywriter, and has written hundreds of business plans, feasibility studies, press releases, cross-media advertising campaigns, and presentations.

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