Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers

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About the Job

Operate radio, telephone, or computer equipment at emergency response centers. Receive reports from the public of crimes, disturbances, fires, and medical or police emergencies. Relay information to law enforcement and emergency response personnel. May maintain contact with caller until responders arrive.

It is also Called

  • Telecommunicator
  • Telecommunications Specialist
  • Telecommunications Officer
  • Public Safety Telecommunicator
  • Public Safety Dispatcher
  • Protective Signal Operator
  • Police Radio Dispatcher
  • Police Dispatcher
  • Police Communications Operator
  • Police Communications Dispatcher
View All

What They Do

  • Test and adjust communication and alarm systems, and report malfunctions to maintenance units.
  • Monitor alarm systems to detect emergencies, such as fires and illegal entry into establishments.
  • Operate and maintain mobile dispatch vehicles and equipment.
  • Provide emergency medical instructions to callers.
  • Answer routine inquiries, and refer calls not requiring dispatches to appropriate departments and agencies.
  • Learn material and pass required tests for certification.
  • Maintain files of information relating to emergency calls, such as personnel rosters, and emergency call-out and pager files.
  • Read and effectively interpret small-scale maps and information from a computer screen to determine locations and provide directions.
  • Monitor various radio frequencies such as those used by public works departments, school security, and civil defense to keep apprised of developing situations.
  • Maintain access to, and security of, highly sensitive materials.


People who work in this occupation generally have the interest code: CRE.

This means people who work in this occupation generally have Conventional interests, but also prefer Realistic and Enterprising environments.

Work Values

People who work in this occupation generally prize Relationships, but also value Support and Achievement in their jobs.

Things They Need to Know

  • Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • Public Safety and Security - Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
  • Telecommunications - Knowledge of transmission, broadcasting, switching, control, and operation of telecommunications systems.
  • Clerical - Knowledge of administrative and clerical procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and other office procedures and terminology.
  • Law and Government - Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.

Things They Need to Be Able to Do

  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Social Perceptiveness - Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Coordination - Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Service Orientation - Actively looking for ways to help people.

Education Required

These occupations usually require a high school diploma.


In 2016, the average annual wage in Pennsylvania was $36,690 with most people making between $20,250 and $52,420


avg. annual growth

During 2014, this occupation employed approximately 3,260 people in Pennsylvania. It is projected that there will be 2,990 employed in 2024.

This occupation will have about 0 openings due to growth and about 80 replacement openings for approximately 80 total annual openings.

Pennsylvania Department of Education