National Public Safety Telecommunications Week Is April 14-20: For Those Who Hold It Together When All Else Fails

The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International thanks all telecommunications personnel in the public safety community this week for continued efforts to preserve the public’s safety. National Public Safety Telecommunications Week (April 14-20, 2013) is designated to recognize the hard work and dedication, which provide a vital link to the public safety services.

Public Safety Telecommunicators and Dispatcher are faced with the hard work of keeping time-critical operations working when technology fails — because there is no such thing as down time at a 9-1-1 center.

Besides their official duties, public safety telecommunicators and dispatchers adapt to failed equipment, failed software, vendors failed promises, decision-makers that apply or give clearance to inadequate technology (often caused by inadequate vetting of the technology), and unpredictable and overtaxed periods of workload when life or death decisions count. Experienced dispatchers and telecommunicators develop an uncanny sense of the meaning of the callers message — even when it is obfuscated by life or death stressful communications, criminal dishonesty, ignorance, or by attempts at anonymity. They develop an uncanny sense of what is actually happening on the scene, and anticipate or even cue on-scene police officers or firefighters/paramedics on what they might need to respond to an emergency.

Citizens are urged to recognize all the sacrifices and expertise involved in working in a telecommunications personnel position — long hours, missed holidays, life-and-death stressful situations, multi-tasking, emergency medical dispatching, and understanding new technologies and computer systems.


Telecommunications operators and emergency medical dispatchers are professional telecommunicators, tasked with the gathering of information related to police emergencies, fire emergencies, and medical emergencies.

Dispatcher tasks include technical proficiency in police and crime databases that help identify a person with a criminal history or a wanted status, which helps police officer safety and performance in arresting criminals.

Fire dispatching requires proficiency in assigning the appropriate equipment and resources to fire scenes and disasters.

Emergency medical dispatchers include the provision of assistance and instructions by voice, prior to the arrival of Emergency Medical Services, and the dispatching and support of EMS resources responding to an emergency call. The term Emergency Medical Dispatcher is also a certification level and a professional designation, certified through the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International (APCO) and other agencies. Many dispatchers, whether certified or not, use a standard Emergency Medical Dispatch protocol to instruct people on the scene on what to do until help arrives.