911 Dispatcher Requirements in Missouri: Many Options

Missouri dispatchers may fall under the authority of one or more organizations — Missouri recognizes multiple types of dispatch and has set minimum standards for each.

It is important to recognize that these are minimums. Missouri agencies often set standards higher than mandated by law and require multiple trainings. Trainings are brief and are typically completed post-hire. A prospective dispatcher will need a more general set of attributes before hire.

Dispatchers may work in various settings including Public Safety Answer Points (PSAPs) and health centers.

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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Training Requirements

The Missouri Department of Public Health and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services are the state’s standard setters.

The Department of Health and Senior Services mandates that Emergency Medical Dispatchers be certified. Emergency medical dispatch programs must, at minimum, meet requirements set by the United States Department of Transportation, or DOT. The DOT curriculum is available online (https://www.ems.gov/projects/ems-education-standards.html).

The Missouri Department of Public Safety recognizes four types of PSAP telecommunicator role (https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=650.340):

  • Fire telecommunicator
  • Police telecommunicator
  • Emergency medical services telecommunicator
  • Joint communication center telecommunicator

A joint communication center telecommunicator works in a setting that handles multiple types of emergency communications.

The minimum DPS-mandated training is 16 hours for fire, police, or emergency medical services telecommunicators (https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=650.340). It is 40 hours for joint communication center telecommunicators. Professional association APCO International notes that a fire, police, or medical services telecommunicator is considered qualified based on completion of a 40-hour program. Training must be completed through an approved provider.

APCO International and the Missouri 911 Directors Association report the following among the approved providers:

  • APCO International
  • National Academies of Emergency Dispatch (NAED)*
  • National Emergency Communications Institute (NECI)
  • Public Safety Group

APCO is a very well-known provider that frequently offers courses in cooperation with local agencies.

The Advisory Committee for 911 Service Oversight may waive the usual training requirements for an out-of-state telecommunicator who had training in another state, provided the training was at least at the level Missouri requires (http://s1.sos.mo.gov/cmsimages/adrules/csr/current/11csr/11c30-13.pdf).

Training is ongoing. Missouri telecommunicators are expected to have, at minimum, 24 hours of training every three years.

Agency Trainings

Additional certifications may be necessary for some duties. Among the many certifications that agencies frequently reference is the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES).

Public safety agencies may have their own in-house programs that include far more than what is mandated. The St. Charles County Department of Dispatch and Alarm, for example, provides seven weeks of classroom training (https://www.sccmo.org/). The training incorporates both the APCO International general 40-hour telecommunicator training and the APCO International 32-hour fire telecommunicator programs. St. Charles telecommunicators receive 40 hours of continuing education a year.

Education for Entry and Advancement

People generally don’t need a college degree at the lower levels of emergency communications but do need a lot of skills — and, not infrequently, need to pass a test or two. Independence, for example, administers a typing test and written test and carries out an observation (https://www.ci.independence.mo.us/hr/JobDetails?id=2007165a). The hiring agency also notes that bilingualism is a desirable qualification.

Some skills, like verbal and written communication, clerical skills, and the ability to think critically while under pressure, can be developed either on the job or in the classroom. Experience and education can serve two purposes: to develop skills and signal aptitudes. The City of Springfield notes that not everyone is cut out to be a telecommunicator. A dispatcher needs not only the desire to help others but the ability to handle stress (http://www.springfieldmo.gov/283/911-Telecommunicator-Jobs). Springfield also notes that a prospective telecommunicator needs to share experiences and abilities with the hiring team — relevant experiences may include education as well as customer service and public contact work.

For some, being hired as a dispatcher is only the beginning. It takes far more than call taking and dispatch to keep emergency communications agencies running smoothly. In St. Charles, for example, instrumental roles include ‘training officer’ and ‘quality assurance officer’. The training officer role involves making observations of dispatchers who have recently moved from classroom to console; new dispatchers are the subject of daily written reports. Scenarios and testing are also used to assess readiness for independent work.

Other higher level emergency communications duties include evaluating equipment and technologies, conducting classroom education programs, developing public education programs, planning for everything from everyday staffing to large-scale emergencies, and overseeing large agencies or departments.

A person may not need a degree at the lower supervisory levels, though he or she will need a broader and deeper skill set. Professionals vying for higher level administrative positions, on the other hand, frequently have a lot of education.

There are multiple educational experiences that may be relevant to emergency communications professionals who are seeking to advance. Some workers pursue degrees in public administration. Some seek certifications through professional organizations. Some leadership trainings consist of short training programs designed to prepare professionals for particular roles. Others recognize a general level of achievement. An example is the Emergency Numbers Professional (ENP). Before a professional can sit for the ENP examination, he or she will need to demonstrate accomplishment; experience, academic degrees, and qualifying professional service are all worth points (https://www.nena.org/page/enpcertification2017P).

Additional Information

Telecommunicators are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Safety (http://dps.mo.gov/dir/programs/ohs/911Advisory.php).

The following professional associations may be of interest:

Missouri Chapter of the Emergency Numbers Association http://www.monena.org/

Missouri Chapter of APCO International http://moapco.org/

Missouri 911 Director’s Association https://www.missouri911da.org/