Who are Dispatchers?

Dispatchers are often the first people the public contacts when they call for emergency assistance. Sometimes they are the only contact citizens have with the Sheriff’s Office. Dispatchers receive complaints and requests from the public about crimes, fires, and other emergencies.

When handling calls, dispatchers carefully question each caller to determine the type, seriousness and most importantly the location of the emergency. The dispatchers quickly decide on the priority of the incident, the number of units needed, and the location of the closest and most suitable units available. They organize all of the requests and complaints and then relay the information to the appropriate people.

Dispatchers are responsible for prioritizing and dispatching the appropriate type and number of units in response to the calls for assistance, and monitor the activities of the responding personnel. Dispatch keeps records on the calls for service that are received, and maintain information on each call that has occurred during the shift. We utilize computer-aided dispatch systems to accomplish these tasks. One person usually handles the dispatching of the calls to the response units, while the other member of the team usually receives the incoming calls and monitors the location of the emergency services department, or ambulances. All dispatchers have a high accountability for their actions and decisions. There is also a high level of responsibility.

Working Conditions

The Communications Division, where dispatch is located, provides 24-hour emergency and non-emergency services to the public. This includes communications via the telephone and radio to several departments within the county. Some of these departments include: Fire, Search and Rescue, Animal Control, Boat Patrol, Public Works Department, Forest Service, Highway Patrol, and Tuolumne County Ambulance.

Since crimes and emergencies can occur at anytime, dispatchers work on shifts, nights, holidays, and weekends to make available around the clock service. Some overtime work may be required. In the event of a major emergency dispatchers may be on-call 24 hours a day. There is very little physical exertion required. However, during peak calling times, work may become very hectic.

Since most of the situations dispatchers handle are emergencies and the callers on the other end of the telephone line are in some sort of distress, the work environment may be stressful at times. Dispatchers must, with little time to spare, provide information, make decisions, and perform duties that may be critical to the safety of the deputies in the field. Dispatchers don’t choose calls or situations to be handled; they do not know ahead of time what the situation will be when answering the telephone. The profession of dispatching is exciting, challenging and rewarding. However, it can also be frustrating, stressful and emotional. These contradictory facets of dispatching make it one of the toughest jobs to master. But, for those who do, it’s a particularly good way to earn a living and serve your community.

Communications Activities

Here we have compiled a list of incidents that the dispatchers handle. Naturally there are many more types of incidents, however this should give you an idea of the wide variety of work that dispatchers perform:

  • 911 hang up calls
  • Abandoned vehicles
  • Advice
  • Assault and/or battery
  • Audible or silent alarm
  • Auto accidents
  • Bomb threat
  • Burglary
  • Domestic disturbance
  • Forgery
  • Hit and run
  • Information / be on the lookout
  • Intoxicated persons
  • Kidnapping
  • Lost / found property
  • Making annoying / harassing phone calls
  • Malicious damage
  • Missing person
  • Murder
  • Noise complaint
  • Outside / mutual aid to another agency
  • Person down
  • Petty and/or grand theft
  • Prowler
  • Psychiatric emergency
  • Rape
  • Restraining order entries
  • Robbery
  • Runaway juveniles
  • Subpoena services
  • Suicide attempt
  • Suspicious circumstance, person, or vehicle
  • Trespassing
  • Vehicle repossession
  • Welfare checks