911 Emergency Dispatcher Requirements in North Dakota

North Dakota sets minimum standards for public safety telecommunicators. State code describes both general eligibility requirements and training requirements, but does not require licensing of individual dispatchers.

Individual Public Safety Answer Points (PSAPs) set additional requirements, such as previous education and/ or experience.

Requirements are slightly higher for Emergency Medical Dispatchers (EMDs). However, the additional training is the equivalent of only a few days of full-time coursework.

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

Select a North Dakota 911 Dispatcher Topic:

North Dakota’s 911 System

The North Dakota 911 system is more consolidated than in many states (http://www.ndaco.org/image/cache/Leg_Report_2010_Final.pdf). A large part of the state is served by a single PSAP, State Radio. Other PSAPs are under local control.

Dispatchers may dispatch everything from police to ambulance. The average PSAP provides dispatch for about 30 agencies. Even rural PSAPs dispatch many services.

Telecommunicator Requirements

Chapter 57-40.6 of North Dakota Century Code outlines basic requirements for all telecommunicators, whether hired by the state or by jurisdictions within the state. Telecommunicators must be free of felony convictions. They can expect to provide two sets of fingerprints; these will be used for state and federal background checks. Prospective telecommunicators must also have hearing screenings and drug screenings.

Telecommunicators must complete training courses. The course may be offered by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO International) or judged equivalent. APCO International reported several years ago that most agencies did use their 40-hour basic telecommunicator course. However, agencies have a fair amount of leeway in interpreting the law.

Telecommunicators will need to demonstrate to their employing PSAPs that they can prioritize calls and determine appropriate resources; this is a state mandate.

Agency-Specific Training

Telecommunicators often need National Crime Information Center (NCIC) certification; this allows them to access databases with sensitive information.

At higher levels, professionals may be expected to have additional certifications such as National Incident Management System.

Educational Expectations

Emergency dispatchers are generally expected to have education at at least twelfth grade level. Academic degrees, though not required, can facilitate advancement. They may also facilitate entry into the field, in cases where a person does not yet have a lot of work experience or where work experience has little relation to the job role.

Requirements may be set at the state or local level. Requirements for state hires are described on the human resources website (https://www.nd.gov/). The State of North Dakota allows coursework and experience, to a large part, to substitute for each other, though some loosely related experience is required even at lower levels. At higher levels, a degree is listed among the typical qualifications.

The amount of previous experience required at the Communications Specialist I level varies by type of experience. In general, the timeframe is shorter if experience was in a high-stress public safety role. The hiring agency can accept a year of experience in a role such as EMT/ paramedic, firefighter, or corrections officer. Previous emergency communications experience is of course valued. Clerical, secretarial, and customer service experience is also acceptable, but the requirement is four years. The hiring agency can accept two years of qualifying college coursework en lieu of two years of experience. Acceptable fields include counseling, nursing, criminal justice, and psychology.

By the Communications Specialist III level, the general expectation is that the dispatcher will have an associate’s degree in a qualifying field; this is in addition to three years of experience at the Communications Specialist II level. However, additional experience may take the place of a degree – provided the professional does indeed possess the requisite skills. Among the many duties that a Communication Specialist at this level might perform are updating protocol for out-of-state Amber Alerts, participating in the development and maintenance of mapping projects and systems, and training employees in use of Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD).

Supervisor represents a higher level yet. A bachelor’s degree is among the general expectations. Again, a professional may achieve this level with enough experience – but should be prepared to compete with other skilled professionals.

A prospective dispatcher will often need to complete pre-hiring assessments. The City of Bismarck, for example, may assess prospective communications specialists on call service customer service scenarios as well as on typing and spelling; individuals are directed to test at a Job Service North Dakota location.

Emergency Medical Dispatcher Requirements

Emergency medical dispatch involves staying on the line with callers and providing potentially life-saving information. Telecommunicators who provide pre-arrival medical instructions must complete programs approved by the Department of Health (http://www.legis.nd.gov/cencode/t57c40-6.pdf?20151130195042).

State-certified EMDs must complete programs that meet standards of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (https://www.health.nd.gov/epr/emergency-medical-systems/statute-regulations-and-legislation/). Courses must be taught by approved instructors. Students will need to pass an examination at the end. The minimum passing score is 70%. Certification is issued for approximately two years, but the initial certification period may be shorter or longer depending on when the qualifying examination is passed.

APCO International notes that agencies are permitted to use other training vendors (http://www.legis.nd.gov/cencode/t57c40-6.pdf?20151130195042).

Additional Information

Regulations regarding emergency medical dispatch are available from the North Dakota Department of Health (https://www.health.nd.gov/epr/emergency-medical-systems/statute-regulations-and-legislation/).

State professional associations include the North Dakota 911 Association (http://nd911.homestead.com) and the North Dakota Chapter of APCO International (http://nd911.homestead.com/APCO.html).

APCO International has provided a general overview of North Dakota requirements (http://www.ndaco.org/image/cache/Leg_Report_2010_Final.pdf).