911 Dispatcher Requirements in Florida: What it takes to Become a Public Safety Telecommunicator in Florida

Florida has set some of the highest standards in the nation for 911 dispatchers. The state’s Public Safety Telecommunicators, or PSTs, are state-certified.

911 Public Safety Telecommunications Certification is based on training and standardized examination.

Higher education is not required for certification but may facilitate entry into the field and/ or advancement into managerial positions.

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

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PST Certification Training Requirements

The dispatcher must complete a training program that has been approved by the Florida Department of Health. Approved training programs are at least 232 hours. They follow a state curriculum. The curriculum includes content relevant to fire, medical, and police dispatch. Call classification and prioritization, roles and duties, operational skills, interpersonal and communication skills, professional ethics, and Homeland Security are among the topics covered.

The training program may be completed in-house. An individual is allowed to hold employment at the trainee level while enrolled in a training program.

The training requirements may be waived for sworn law enforcement officers who are selected for dispatch duty by their executive officers and who perform dispatch on only a limited basis. Those performing even limited dispatching duties will need to take an examination. A law enforcement officer who is exempted from taking the state curriculum will not be certified but rather authorized to perform dispatch services.

PST Certification Examination Requirements

Certification is by examination. The 911 Public Safety Telecommunicator Examination is multiple choice. The Department of Health has provided a study guide (http://www.floridahealth.gov/licensing-and-regulation/911-public-safety-telecommunicator-program/index.html).

The examination is administered by Prometric. It is now available via computer. The candidate can select from many testing sites, both in-state and out-of-state. Prometric has provided a candidate bulletin (https://www.prometric.com/en-us/clients/Florida/pages/FLDOH.aspx).

The candidate will need to obtain permission from the 911 Public Safety Telecommunicator Program Office before registering. Exam applications are available on the Department of Health website (http://www.floridahealth.gov/licensing-and-regulation/911-public-safety-telecommunicator-program/apps%20and%20forms.html). The applicant will need to provide a copy of the certificate of completion.

An approved candidate will remit $75 to Prometric. Scheduling can be carried out online. Prometric can be reached by telephone at 1-888-345-2778

The test taker will receive a preliminary score report immediately after the test concludes. He or she will receive the official results from the Public Safety Telecommunicator Program Office.

A candidate is allowed up to three examination attempts. He or she can review the questions missed; there is an additional fee for this service. After a third failed attempt, re-training is required.

The PST Application Process

It will also be necessary to submit a certification application. Applications can be downloaded from the DOH website (http://www.floridahealth.gov/licensing-and-regulation/911-public-safety-telecommunicator-program/apps%20and%20forms.html).

The application fee is currently $50.

A law enforcement officer who is seeking waiver uses a separate application. The officer’s chief executive will sign the form.

PST certification is renewed every other year. The dispatcher must have 20 hours of training prior to renewal.

Education and Experience Requirements for Civil Service Positions

Dispatchers may be hired by local governmental authorities. County and city websites often list minimum education and experience requirements. In some cases, an individual may qualify through either experience or education.

In Tallahassee, for example, one can meet minimum requirements for Public Safety Communications Operator with either 1) a high school diploma/ equivalency and a year of qualifying public contact work or 2) 30 semester hours of college credit.

Miami-Dade County has noted a preference for fire rescue dispatchers who hold degrees at at least the associate’s degree in fields such as emergency communications.

Advancement Opportunities

A dispatcher may progress to supervisory positions within the same job class and may eventually transition into other related work areas such as safety-related management and administration. Again, requirements will vary by agency.

In Orange County, a Public Safety Communications Manager is generally expected to have both a bachelor’s degree in a field like communications or public administration and five years of experience in public safety communications; work experience is to include doing planning on a large scale (http://www.orangecountyfl.net/EmploymentVolunteerism/JobDescriptions.aspx). The hiring agency can accept additional experience in lieu of a degree, but the candidate will need skills such as making presentations and using various computer programs. Many types of experience are valued, including grant writing and coalition building.

An Orange County 911 Training and Development Coordinator is expected to have both a college degree in a field such as business administration, communications, education, psychology, or public administration and three years of experience related to training and development. A 911 Coordinator is expected to have a bachelor’s in computer science (or other related field) and five years of experience in public safety or communications management, with no fewer than two years spent carrying out supervisory duties. Emergency Number Professional (ENP) certification is a preferred qualification.

ENP certification is available from the National Emergency Numbers Association (https://www.nena.org/page/enpcertification2017). It is an advanced certification designed for experienced emergency communication professionals. A candidate will need, at minimum, three years of experience in emergency communications. In order to be examination-eligible, he or she will also need to accrue ten points. Points are earned for professional experience beyond the minimum, for academic degrees, and for certain types of professional development or professional service activities. An academic degree is worth two to six points, depending on level.

Additional Information

Information about public safety communications certification is available from the Florida Department of Health (http://www.floridahealth.gov/licensing-and-regulation/911-public-safety-telecommunicator-program/index.html). The Public Safety Telecommunicator Program can be reached by telephone at 850-245-4440 or by email at ‘EMS.Operations at flhealth.gov’. Certification rules are described in state administrative code (https://www.flrules.org/gateway/chapterhome.asp?chapter=64J-3).

Additional resources include the Florida Emergency Numbers Association (http://flnena.org/main/) and the Florida Association of Public-Safety Officials (http://www.apco-florida.org/).