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What A 911 Dispatcher Needs From You

SACRAMENTO — When you call 9-1-1, what you are able to tell the dispatcher could mean the difference between life and death for yourself or a loved one. So who are these dedicated people who answer the call, and what do they need from you in those emergency situations?

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is honoring the men and women who serve as call-takers and dispatchers during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, Apr. 10-16.

This is an opportunity to thank those who are too often forgotten, despite the invaluable service they provide to first responders and the general public. It is also a good time to educate the public on what they will need to communicate to dispatchers when calling 9-1-1.

A large majority of California’s wireless 9-1-1 emergency calls are handled by CHP dispatchers. They ensure the caller on the other end of the line receives proper assistance in an emergency.

Calling 9-1-1 can be stressful. The following tips will help callers and dispatchers during an emergency:

  • Remain calm.
  • Be prepared to provide your name, phone number, address or location, and a detailed description of the incident or vehicle being reported.
  • Wireless devices do not always give the call-taker your location. Providing an accurate location of the emergency may be the single most important information for the dispatcher. This allows them to send help to the correct place.
  • Listen carefully and follow all directions provided by the dispatcher.
  • Wait for the dispatcher to ask questions, and then answer clearly and calmly.
  • Be prepared to provide a physical description if the emergency involves a criminal suspect.
  • Remember, 9-1-1 is for life-threatening emergencies. Misuse of the emergency 9-1-1 system will result in a delay for callers with real emergencies.

For calls in our mountain area, one of the essential questions a dispatcher asks is the nearest cross street. Also, if the location of the emergency presents difficult access for large emergency response vehicles or is inside a gate, they will need to know that also.

The calls dispatchers handle are never routine. In an instant, a dispatcher must be ready to engage with the caller and determine the proper response to ensure safety. In between handling emergency calls, dispatchers are in constant communication with patrol officers, often assisting them by looking up vehicle identification numbers, license plates, driver license numbers and running criminal record checks on wanted subjects.

The CHP has 25 communications centers statewide that employ more than 900 public safety dispatchers. Last year these employees were responsible for handling approximately 10.1 million service calls.

“I am very proud of our public safety dispatchers and the indispensable services they provide to the public every day,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “They are often the first and most critical contact people have with emergency services. In addition to assisting the public, they help our officers in the field by providing valuable information, so officers can get the job done on the front lines.”

To learn more about career opportunities as a CHP Dispatcher, click here.

The mission of the California Highway Patrol is to provide the highest level of Safety, Service, and Security to the people of California.

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