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911 Dispatcher Requirements in Indiana: Paths to become a 911 Dispatcher in Indiana

Indiana's emergency dispatchers may be termed public safety dispatchers. Often they have formal education at only the high school level. They do, however, possess a broad range of skills, from typing to supportive listening.

Emergency dispatch training often takes place after hiring. Indiana has mandated training in Emergency Medical Dispatch. This allows dispatchers to instruct individuals who are waiting for emergency medical care in use of life-saving techniques; it also helps dispatchers prioritize medical emergencies. State mandates represent minimum training. Individual agencies may provide far more training than just EMD.

Dispatchers may pursue academic degrees or certificate programs to help them advance to the highest levels -- or to transfer their skills to other closely related occupations.

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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About Emergency Dispatch in Indiana

911 calls are received at Public Safety Answering Points, or PSAPs. Indiana communication centers are commonly located in sheriff's offices or police departments. However, this is not the only setting possible.

Dispatchers are often generalists, dispatching police, fire, and medical services. The Warrick County Sheriff's Office has provided some general information about their duties (http://warrickcountysheriff.com/dispatch/dispatch.html).

In some cases, however, calls are transferred to medical dispatchers. Medical facilities and ambulance services sometimes seek dispatchers who have far more experience than what is mandated. It is not uncommon for the hiring agency to seek individuals who have prior training as EMTs. For example, Three Rivers Ambulance Authority, Fort Wayne’s government-authorized ambulance service, looks for certification at least at the level of EMT Basic.

Even the Indiana State Police prefer individuals in certain positions to hold EMT certification.

Some dispatchers are employed outside PSAPs, providing security to public and private institutions. Among the possible employers of security dispatchers: hospitals.

Entry-Level Requirements

The prospective dispatcher will need a high school diploma or GED. He or she will need strong English language skills. Bilingualism can also be an asset.

The applicant may need to pass a test. Sometimes the CritiCall is used to test suitability. The goal of the CritiCall is to measure skills that are commonly used by dispatchers and telecommunicators. There are multiple skills assessments, among them, data entry, call summarization, alpha-numeric memory, map reading, and cross referencing (http://criticall911.com/products/). The employer will select those that are relevant.

The applicant may also benefit from having a local knowledge base. He or she may be expected to have some knowledge of community agencies as well as local geography.

Applicants may need to have physical and psychology tests. Agencies may use various methods to assess personality traits. Good character is just one component of suitability. Dispatchers must be able to handle multiple stressors, which can range from being on-call or having to work at a very fast pace to being unable to save someone’s life.

Training Mandates

Indiana mandates training for EMD dispatchers. According to Title 16 of state code, medical dispatchers must receive training that meets standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as described in the Emergency Medical Dispatch Program Implementation and Administration Managers Guide (https://iga.in.gov/legislative/laws/2015/ic/).

The EMD can expect to complete the equivalent of at least three or four days of EMD training.

Professional Association APCO International notes that it is the agency, not the individual dispatcher, who must be certified – and who must ensure that an appropriate training curriculum is in place (http://psc.apcointl.org/2010/09/01/state-training-certification-survey/). EMD training providers include the National Emergency Number Association and APCO International as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Agencies may use third party curricula for other trainings: for example, partnering with APCO International for Basic Telecommunicator training. Agencies may also have lengthy in-house programs.

Dispatchers who are not EMTs may still opt to pursue advanced training in medical dispatch. Certification is offered at different levels. Professional associations are rich sources of continuing education.

Advanced Training

The Indiana Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) offers a trainer course that is relevant to some dispatchers – e.g. those who work under the banner of the Indiana State Police.

Dispatchers can further their skills through certificate programs. Leadership-level dispatch certifications are offered by APCO International, the National Emergency Numbers Association (NENA), and the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED).

The NENA Emergency Number Professional (ENP) credential is designed for experienced career professionals who are seeking to transition to leadership roles. Candidates must establish examination eligibility by earning ten points. Points are awarded for academic degrees, for qualifying professional service or professional development activities, and for years of service beyond the required three years. A degree at the bachelor’s level is worth four points.

The IAED, meanwhile, offers quality assurance certifications in Emergency Medical Dispatch, Emergency Fire Dispatch, and Emergency Police Dispatch.

Individuals may also seek academic degrees to help them move to high level positions or transition into related fields such as emergency management.

Additional Information

Emergency medical dispatch is under the jurisdiction of the Indiana Emergency Medical Services Commission (http://www.in.gov/dhs/3525.htm). However, dispatch employees do not need to apply to the Commission for licensing or certification.

Professional associations include the Indiana Chapter of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (http://indyapco.org) and the Indiana Chapter of the National Emergency Numbers Association (http://www.innena.org).