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Are 911 Dispatchers First Responders?

In the era before 911, reaching emergency services required dialing local 7-digit numbers—a process considerably more cumbersome than today’s streamlined approach. The advent of the 911 system revolutionized the speed and efficiency of emergency response. 

Central to this transformation are the 911 dispatchers, who serve as the vital link between callers in distress and first responders. This raises an intriguing question: Given their pivotal role in emergency situations, should 911 dispatchers be classified as first responders? 

Dive into this exploration to discover more about the integral duties of 911 dispatchers and the ongoing debate surrounding their classification.

What Do 911 Dispatchers Do? 

911 dispatch jobs require a lot more than just taking calls. Below you’ll find a list of the many duties that 911 dispatchers must do. 

Undergoing Training

Being a 911 dispatcher is not the same as being a call center operator. People’s lives depend on 911 dispatchers doing their jobs correctly. This is why 911 dispatchers have to undergo hundreds of hours of training. 

The training that they undergo includes the following categories: 

Crisis Response Training 

911 dispatchers must learn how to respond to different types of calls. Often, supervisors will give them training calls and they need to decide how to respond to them. 


What would happen if 911 dispatchers couldn’t use the tools that their companies provided them? They wouldn’t be able to do their jobs. So dispatchers need to be proficient with the tools that allow them to answer calls, record calls, send dispatchers, etc. 

First Aid and CPR Certifications 

People will often need medical help right away. The medical team may not be able to help them in time.

In these situations, 911 dispatchers will need to instruct callers to offer aid to victims if they can. This is where first aid and CPR classes come in handy. 

Emergency Information 

Dispatchers need to learn where the person is calling from and the exact nature of the emergency. This will help them know which workers to send in for a job and where to send them. 

Caller’s Information 

Unfortunately, they still have to get all this information from the caller. Yes, although modern technology allows for some location tracking (and despite what many believe) 911 dispatchers do not always have accurate information to track where someone is calling from. People can sometimes be hard to find. 

Callers Are Emotional

The problem is that many callers are in hysterical states of mind. So it can be hard for 911 dispatchers to understand what the callers are saying. This is related to the next point. 

Keep Themselves Calm 

Dispatchers need to stay calm despite what’s happening on the other end of the line. This will help the caller stay calm as well. Then they can give the dispatcher clear information. 

Safety Reasons 

Plus, if the caller stays calm, they can hear and follow the dispatcher’s instructions more easily. It’s more likely they will make it to safety in this situation. 

Challenges With Callers 

Dispatchers are often dealing with individuals in high-stress or traumatic situations. As a result, callers might be anxious, scared, or even confrontational. Navigating these emotional dynamics requires patience and understanding from the dispatcher, who must maintain professionalism and calm even in the face of potential verbal aggression or misunderstandings.

Give Instructions 

In many cases, 911 dispatchers have to give people life-saving advice. They can do this even though they’re not being doctors or law enforcement. Much of their training gives them the information that they give to callers. 

An Example 

Say that a person is in a car crash. A dispatcher can tell the caller not to approach the crash and/or move injured people.

Dispatch Emergency Response Team 

A dispatcher can’t just call a team of public safety workers to every emergency. Doing so will take resources away from the emergencies that need them most. So they have to decide what kind of people they need to send to a certain emergency. 


In some cases, dispatchers also have to decide whether a situation is an emergency or not. For someone who has no training in these issues, this may be difficult. 

Record the Calls 

You’ve probably heard 911 calls on the news or in other media. 911 dispatchers recorded these calls. To do this, people have to learn how to use this technology and make sure they record these calls every time. 

Why is this necessary? People often use 911 calls to hold people accountable. Courts often use them in cases. Police can also use these calls to deal with cases. 

So 911 calls could put bad people behind bars and possibly save further lives. 

Deal With Mental Health Issues 

Sometimes calls can go very wrong. A person can end up hurting the caller during the call or the caller can get into an accident. These types of calls can mentally scar people for a long time. 

Little Mental Healthcare

Supervisors will often check up on their workers. But 911 dispatchers do not get the mental health treatment that first responders do. This is despite the fact that 911 dispatchers often have to deal with PTSD

That’s why governments are creating new legislation that would classify 911 dispatchers as first responders. 

Are 911 Dispatchers First Responders? 

According to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, they’re classified as clerical workers. Officially, that means that 911 dispatchers are not classified as emergency responders. Despite this classification, many believe that 911 dispatchers need to have the emergency responder title. 

911 Dispatchers Should Be First Responders

Why should 911 dispatchers have first responder classification? Many people argue that they deserve the benefits of this classification. They also believe that giving 911 operators these benefits would make the jobs more attractive. 

Like Emergency Responders

As you can see from the list above, 911 dispatchers often undergo training that’s similar to what emergency responders undergo. They also often deal with a lot of the same mental health struggles. So they need the same level of support that emergency responders get. 

More Dispatchers Needed

Plus, it’s getting harder for companies to recruit and keep 911 dispatchers. Yet, the volume of calls that 911 service stations get is increasing. Perhaps recruiters can attract more operators if they offer more incentives. 

Our Dispatch Software

So are 911 dispatchers first responders? Officially, they’re not, but they should be. 

911 dispatchers are far more skilled than people give them credit for. It’s time for the United States community to give them what they deserve.

Another issue that 911 dispatchers face is outdated equipment. Many agency’s still rely on pen and paper to manager their units or woefully outdated technology. 

Our computer-aided dispatch software can help solve some of these issues. Created by emergency responders, this software will certainly work well for emergency responders. 

Contact us today to get a free system demo.


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