911 Dispatcher Requirements in New Hampshire

New Hampshire emergency dispatchers have varying roles within a statewide 911 system. The New Hampshire Public Safety Answer Point (PSAP) is one of a number accredited as a Center of Excellence by the Academies for Emergency Dispatch, or IAED; it is the country’s first statewide Center of Excellence (http://www.nh.gov/safety/divisions/emergservices/nh911/pubinfo/documents/newsletter_march2014.pdf).

Some New Hampshire dispatchers are hired by the state to work the PSAP; they are sometimes referred to as Telecommunications Specialists and sometimes as Emergency Medical Dispatchers. They receive many kinds of calls. They ask the first questions and get the process underway.

Some calls are relayed to other public safety centers; these may be police stations or fire departments. These local jurisdictions also hire dispatchers. Fire departments may dispatch emergency medical services as well as fire services.

EMDs have detailed protocols to follow. However, they may have to help callers perform difficult tasks while waiting for help to arrive — the caller may need not only to stay calm but to administer CPR or help deliver a baby. New Hampshire EMDs have high levels of training. Discipline-specific training takes place after hire. However, pre-hire requirements are also more stringent than they are in many U.S. jurisdictions.

Dispatchers hire by local jurisdictions are not subject to all the same standards. However, New Hampshire has, in recent years, taken steps to insure a basic level of training for all dispatchers.

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

Select a New Hampshire 911 Dispatcher Topic:

Hiring Standards

An individual hired as a telecommunication specialist by the state will need a high school diploma and five years of qualifying experience and/ or education.

To be credited, experience must be service-oriented, involve interactive public contact, and require multi-tasking ability and quick response. Examples include firefighting, teaching, law enforcement, paramedic service, and food service. Approved formal education may substitute for experience on a year for year basis.

The Department of Safety administers a written test, compatibility assessment, and dispatch simulation. The candidate will have a criminal background check, motor vehicle history check, drug test, and hearing test.

Local police agencies and fire departments may not set the above requirements. The minimum education/ experience requirement is often a high school diploma or GED. However, the selection process can still be rigorous. Derry Fire Department applicants, for example, must go through an examination process to be placed on a list of potential hires. Successful candidates complete a Board interview and physical.

Some agencies set a minimum typing speed, which may be around 40 words per minute. Some set the minimum age as high as 21.

Mandatory Training

Emergency Medical Dispatchers must complete a state curriculum. The program lasts a minimum 14 weeks. The hire will spend seven weeks in the classroom. During this time, he or she will earn several certifications, including basic telecommunicator certification and CPR. The Division of Emergency Services reports that the program includes role playing. The following are among the topics covered:

  • Basic telecommunications
  • New Hampshire geography
  • Critical incident stress
  • Advanced first aid
  • Mapping software
  • Suicide intervention
  • Hazardous materials
  • Interacting with outside agencies

The EMD will receive training on the job for another seven weeks.

The Bureau of Emergency Communications (9-1-1) Training Unit also provides an APCO International telecommunicator certification program that is open to other public safety agencies.

The March 2014 issue of “Answering the Call” describes the plan for New Hampshire Basic Emergency Dispatch training: national training as a Public Safety Telecommunicator (PST1) followed by a local segment (http://www.nh.gov/safety/divisions/emergservices/nh911/pubinfo/index.html).

Advancement Opportunities

The state of New Hampshire recognizes a higher classification: Telecommunications Specialist II. A state employee at the Telecommunications Specialist II level must be certified as a training officer and must hold EMD and TTY/TDD certifications. A dispatcher will need to serve at least one year at the Telecommunications Specialist I level before achieving this classification. The individual is expected to hold an associate’s degree and have five years of qualifying education, though education may take the place of experience, and experience take the place of education.

Local agencies also need professionals who have the skills to take on supervisory duties. A degree is sometimes expected. Concord, for example, expects a police dispatch supervisor to have 60 academic credits in an applicable field. A variety of academic backgrounds may be considered, among them, public administration, criminal justice, communications, and electronics.

There are other opportunities in dispatch, such as forestry service. Forestry dispatchers dispatch services for wildfires and other large-scale emergencies. A degree is not required but may help an individual meet experience requirements.

Those who plan for large scale emergencies often benefit from academic degrees.

Additional Information

Those seeking information about state employment as a telecommunicator will find contact information on the site of the Division of Emergency Services, Communications and Management website (http://www.nh.gov/safety/divisions/emergservices/employ.html).

The Division publishes a newsletter, Answering the Call (http://www.nh.gov/safety/divisions/emergservices/nh911/pubinfo/index.html).

Professional associations include the APCO Atlantic Chapter (http://www.apco-atlantic.org), the New Hampshire Emergency Dispatchers Association (https://sites.google.com/site/nhdispatchers) and the New Hampshire Chapter of the National Emergency Numbers Association (https://www.nena.org/?page=Chapters).