911 Dispatcher in Hawaii: What are the requirements for 911 Dispatchers in Hawaii…

There is no one uniform set of requirements for Hawaii’s 911 dispatchers. Hawaii does not mandate minimum training at the state level. Some dispatchers, though, will receive very high levels of training.

There are multiple specialties of dispatch, including police and medical. There is a geographical aspect to how duties are divided. The city/ county of Honolulu, for example, places medical services dispatch in the realm of the emergency medical technician. The police dispatcher will answer all types of 911 call. However, he or she will transfer medical emergencies to individuals who are better prepared to provide support to those awaiting emergency medical services. Individuals who dispatch ambulances in Honolulu have a good deal more training than the national norm, but there is no direct-entry option. An individual without medical (or police) training, though, can be hired as a police dispatcher.

Hawaii’s dispatchers do not have a licensing board. A prospective dispatcher however, can look to individual governmental municipalities and police departments for hiring standards; human resources may describe either the minimum or typical requirements. Individuals who are ready to begin careers in dispatch may also want to establish ties to national and regional professional associations.

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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Entry-Level Education and Experience

Dispatch is a career that can be had with just a high school diploma. This doesn’t mean that a person straight out of high school will be a strong candidate, however. Hiring agencies often look for some combination of education and experience that suggests the person has the requisite skills.

There may be multiple pathways. Hawaii County, for example, does not list minimum experience requirements for Police Radio Dispatcher I but does state that the person’s combined education and training should be the substantial equivalent of 1) possessing a high school diploma and 2) having two years of experience in one of the fields listed. Experience areas include switchboard operation, public contact work, and supervisory level clerical or technical work; prior dispatch experience is of course creditable.

Maui County sets very similar education/ experience standards and notes that the individual should have some type of experience that demonstrates typing or keyboarding proficiency.

Not all municipalities list work experience as an expectation. The hiring process may, however, involve multiple assessments.

Cognitive and academic skills include keyboarding, multitasking, oral and written language ability, and equipment operation. The position also takes the right kind of personality: people-oriented, able to make quick decisions and handle stressful situations.

Career Ladders

Most emergency dispatchers work in the public sector. Governmental agencies typically identify different levels of duty and create a career ladder. An example: A dispatcher who is employed for the Honolulu Police Department at the Radio Dispatcher I level can expect to move up to the Radio Dispatcher II level, provided he or she meets basic expectations. Promotion to the next level, Supervising Police Radio Dispatcher, is more competitive; there is an interview process.

Other Long-Term Opportunities

Those who are successful as dispatchers or dispatch supervisors may also transfer their aptitudes and interests to other related professions. In some cases, additional education will be necessary.

Dispatch experience can be looked upon quite favorably by those in the security industry. Some private sector employers advertise positions that combine dispatch with other security duties. Security officer positions require only minor additional training.

Hawaii dispatchers will often be employed by police departments and will get some exposure to police work. Those who want to make law enforcement their career, however, will face some stringent requirements. While police work will use some of the same aptitudes, a prospective officer should expect to put in a fair amount of time in the classroom.

Hawaii’s geography is a challenge for those who plan emergency response. With education, an otherwise strong candidate may take on administrative, managerial, or even executive-level positions related to emergency communications or public safety management. There is a different skill set than for day-to-day, hands-on supervision. One degree option is public administration; the student may have the option of selecting emergency management as his or her concentration.

The Honolulu Police Department states that dispatchers may further their education while employed as dispatchers but that it is not recommended during the training phase (http://www.joinhonolulupd.org/). In some cases, a student may receive some assistance with educational expenses.

While academic degrees typically offer the most versatility, certification programs may provide the most relevant education for the short-term. Dispatchers can pursue entry-level or leadership level credentials. Entry-level certifications typically require only three to five days of full-time training. The International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED) offers Emergency Police Dispatch, Emergency Fire Dispatch, Emergency Medical Dispatch, and Emergency Telecommunicator credentials.

Leadership level certifications are available through the IAED, the National Emergency Numbers Association (NENA), and APCO International. One credential that is highly regarded on a national level: the APCO International Registered Public-Safety Leader (RPL). RPL credentialing requires, among other things, completion of a service project. The project may be national, state, or regional level.

Additional Information

Hawaii’s professional association is the Pacific Chapter of APCO International (http://www.psconnect.org/pacificapco/home).