911 Dispatcher Requirements in Arkansas

Arkansas has recently passed legislation to help make high quality training available to public safety telecommunicators. However, the mandate doesn’t mean requirements will be different for individual dispatchers. The more focused training typically takes place after hiring. The initial step is often meeting the requirements of the hiring agency.

Most public safety dispatchers work as public servants. They may be employed by state, county, or city authorities.

Higher education, such as an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, may offer additional opportunities and status in the Emergency Dispatcher field.

Select an Arkansas 911 Dispatcher Topic:

Pre-Hiring Requirements

A dispatcher is expected to have, at minimum, a high school diploma or equivalency. In many cases, this is enough. A dispatcher could, however, benefit from further education, either to develop skills or to demonstrate ability. Some employers do state a preference for individuals with degrees.

State, city, and county human resource departments often provide a general set of qualifications. If there are no legal mandates, the description may provide general expectations as opposed to minimums.

There are a variety of dispatch-related positions described on the state personnel website. Positions that are near the entry level include public safety dispatcher, call center specialist, and telecommunications specialist. There may be different employing agencies as well as slightly different sets of duties. Each of these positions is intended for individuals who have completed the twelfth grade or have the formal equivalent of a high school diploma. Each expects two years of experience in a field that is at least loosely related.

Department of Human Resources Call Center Specialist, a position that includes, among other duties, taking emergency calls, providing first aid advice, and dispatching services, sets a general expectation of two years of dispatch experience or training in a field such as first aid.

A Public Safety Dispatcher is generally expected to have a year of communications training and a year of experience in public safety, though substitutions may be allowable. The class specification notes that individual agencies may set additional requirements.

Local agencies may have their own preferences. The City of Little Rock has set high school graduation and a year of clerical experience as the general standard for a 911/ 311 call-taker but notes that other forms of education and experience can be considered.

The University of Arkansas recently sought a Communication Operator who would have, at minimum, a high school diploma (or the equivalent) and two years of specialized training in a field related to communications. A bachelor’s degree was listed under preferred qualifications as was public safety experience (https://jobs.uark.edu/postings/10407).

Hiring is often based on passing a test. Testing requirements vary by agency.

Entry-Level Training

Arkansas passed a law in 2011 making training available to the state’s Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) employees through the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy (http://psc.apcointl.org/2011/03/24/legislation-makes-telecommunicator-training-available-in-arkansas). Training development has been ongoing. The basic telecommunicator course that is currently available is 28 hours (http://www.clest.org/aleta/).

Communications centers are not limited to training programs that are in widespread use at the state level. Nor are individual dispatchers limited to the training they receive through their agency. Dispatchers may seek certifications through national professional associations.

One very important duty a dispatcher may have is giving medical advice to those awaiting ambulance services. A dispatcher can prepare by earning Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) certification. The International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED) is a very well-respected provider. A certified EMD will also need to be CPR-certified.

Professional associations also offer certification in Emergency Fire Dispatch (EFD) and Emergency Police Dispatch (EPD). Training typically culminates in a test.

Advancement Opportunities

A skillful dispatcher can typically do some advancing through the ranks without a college degree. However, a degree may be expected at the higher levels. Degrees can also help individuals with dispatch experience move into related, but slightly different, areas of public safety communications.

An example: An Emergency Communications Training Supervisor with the Little Rock City Government is generally expected to have, in addition to progressively responsible experience, a bachelor’s degree in a field such as business administration, public safety, public administration, communications, telecommunications, or education. At the level of Emergency Communications Trainer, a degree is not listed among the typical qualifications. However, a number of skills and abilities are listed, some of which may be developed through education.

The state human resources website lists the expectation for Telecommunication Supervisor as high school plus one year of additional training; this training may be military-based or vocational.

Advanced Certifications

ALETA offers a 16-hour dispatch supervisor course. A dispatcher may also seek leadership-level professional certifications through organizations such as the National Emergency Numbers Association, APCO International, the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch, or the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council. There are different areas of focus, including training and supervision. Some represent a considerable time commitment.

Additional Information

There is no state licensing body for Arkansas dispatchers.

State professional associations include the Arkansas Chapter of APCO (http://arapco.org/) and the Arkansas Chapter of the Emergency Numbers Association (http://www.nena.org/?page=Chapters).