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911 Dispatcher Requirements in Idaho: This is how to become a 911 Dispatcher in Idaho

Idaho's emergency dispatchers are sometimes termed communications specialists. Communications specialists need to meet pre-hire and post-hire standards; the more technical training typically takes place after hire. Some dispatchers choose to meet additional standards in order to advance.

A career in dispatch requires a good background. It is attainable with a high school diploma but does require some skills that may not have been included in the high school curriculum. Some dispatchers will benefit from supplemental coursework at the onset and/ or degrees at later stages of their careers.

Dispatchers have the option of being certified as communications specialists by Idaho Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST). Professional association APCO International notes this is optional. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the decision will be at the discretion of the individual dispatcher (http://psc.apcointl.org/2010/09/01/state-training-certification-survey/). Prospective dispatchers may look to actual agencies for training requirements. In some cases, the agency may expect both POST training and other certification.

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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Emergency Communications Employment in Idaho

Idaho dispatchers may be employed directly by county or city municipalities. However, this is not always the case. Some municipalities have joined together to form services such as the Southern Idaho Regional Communications Center (SIRCOMM). Some communications specialists are under the banner of the Idaho State Police. The State Police notes that their dispatch centers used to be staffed by patrol officers, but now most are staffed by civilians (https://www.isp.idaho.gov/communications/about.html).

Emergency dispatchers often handle medical, fire, and police calls. However, some jurisdictions make medical communications a separate job classification. The person who takes the original call may transfer it to someone better equipped to provide pre-arrival support.

In some cases, agencies seek emergency dispatchers who have had prior emergency medical experience, for example, as an emergency medical technician. Even when this is not required, they may seek prior emergency dispatch experience. They may also prefer some knowledge of medical terminology.

Medical dispatch can involve duties other than answering 911 calls from citizens. Medical centers may use dispatchers for transfers to other facilities. Sometimes it is necessary for a hospital system to dispatch helicopters.

General Academic Expectations for Dispatch Positions

Hiring agencies may expect that typing skills be very strong. The Idaho State Police asks for 50 net words per minute, documented through a recent certificate. This is somewhat above the per-minute minimum asked by many agencies. However, prospective dispatchers should know that typing speed is important – and is frequently assessed pre-hire.

The job may require strong academic skills as well as calmness under pressure. The State Police notes that communications specialists will need experience reading detailed information.

POST Training and Certification

Post offers Level I, Level II, Level III, and Advanced communications certificates. Professionals can also earn Supervisor, Master, and Management level credentials (https://www.post.idaho.gov/certifications/Certifications.html#Dispatch). Even if the agency expects some training to be carried out through POST, though, the high-level POST credentials will not necessarily be applicable to all positions.

POST has set both training and experience requirements.

Level I requires 80 hours of training and one year of experience as a communications specialist. The communications specialist will need to complete ILETS Classification Level I training.

Level II requires 120 hours of POST-certified training and three years of experience as a communications specialist.

Level III requires 200 hours of POST-certified training and six years of experience.

The Advanced certificate is dependent on completing 500 hours of POST-approved training and accruing ten years of experience. In most cases, individuals at this level are expected to have completed the POST Basic Dispatch Academy. The exception is individuals who have 20 years of employment experience. They may be permitted to challenge the examination.

Supervisor and management level credentials are awarded only to those who have been appointed to qualifying positions. The required education is typically completed through POST. Those seeking Master level certification have steeper training/ education requirements but may credit academic coursework; the Master designation is awarded only to those with 15 years of qualifying experience.

Certificate requirements are described in POST Council Administrative Rule (https://www.post.idaho.gov/rulesnregs/AdminRules.html).

Communication professionals will need to submit a number of documents to POST before they can receive their certificates. A fingerprint-based criminal background will be required. An applicant who has served in the military will also provide a DD-214.

Applicants will need to document high school graduation or generally equivalency. Those who have 15 or more credit of college coursework may instead provide college transcripts.

Training Requirements Set by Hiring Agencies

Training programs offered by individual agencies may be lengthy and may result in multiple certifications.

Dispatchers hired by SIRCOMM, for example, do an initial in-house training program which last about 16 weeks and prepares them for both police and emergency services dispatch; they receive Emergency Medical Services (EMS) certification and certification in using police information systems (http://www.sircomm.com/faq.html). SIRCOMM workers also receive ongoing education, which may be delivered online. Dispatchers attend the POST Basic Training Academy and Advanced Training Academy in Meridian "as scheduling allows" (http://www.sircomm.com/faq.html).

Advancement Opportunities

There is often a relatively straight path to a supervisory position. Dispatchers need to excel -- though they may also need to pick up some additional skills along the way.

There are other positions in emergency communications, though, that require technical know-how and or high-level administrative or managerial skills. Even training can involve far more than standing in front of a small group of rookies; some professionals consider telecommunications instruction on very large scales. To get a sense of the many positions available in the field, one may visit the webpage of the Idaho E911 Emergency Communications Commission (http://bhs.idaho.gov/Pages/ECC/Ecc.aspx) .

Some individuals pursue degrees in fields such as emergency management. It's not necessary to be a dispatcher first -- dispatch in one of many experiences that can pique interest and demonstrate commitment. Degree programs in emergency management and related fields are available at multiple levels, from the associate's on.

Additional Information

Information about Idaho communications specialist certification is available from Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). The Academy Assistant can be reached by telephone or email (https://www.post.idaho.gov/DispAcad/Dispatch.html).

Additional professional resources include the Idaho Chapter of APCO International (http://www.psconnect.org/idahoapco/home) and the Idaho Chapter of the Emergency Numbers Association (https://www.nena.org/?page=Chapters).

Recognized areas of study in this profession include:

  • Emergency Management
  • Homeland Security
  • Public Safety
  • Communications
  • Criminal Justice