Here’s what it takes to be an emergency dispatcher in San Diego

Emergency services dispatchers are a lifeline between someone in danger and the help they need.

SAN DIEGO — Emergency services dispatchers are a lifeline between someone in danger and the help they need. The San Diego Sheriff’s Communication Center responds to an average of 800,000 service calls each year. And to cope with the high volume, they are looking for men and women to join.

It’s the call no one wants to make, but the emergency services dispatchers at the San Diego Sheriff’s Office are ready to answer.

“It forces us to really think things through and act quickly,” Gina Thompson, the sheriff’s emergency services dispatcher.

Answering the call isn’t as easy as it looks, dispatchers like Gina Thompson and Samuel Peters are among the 120 staff who answer more than 2,000 calls every day.

To be able to do this, you must undergo extensive training which can take up to a year to complete and pass what is called the CritiCall test.

Which examines your typing, mapping, comprehension and memory skills.

“This test challenges that. If you can think quickly and respond to these scenarios. We type all day and spelling matters, how fast you can type matters. If you can understand what the caller is saying and put it in a form that the radio side can also understand,” Gina Thompson said.

Vigorous training helps dispatchers respond to the high volume of calls. Dispatchers cater to all of San Diego County, including all unincorporated portions of the county, as well as nine contract towns, or just over one million people.

“If you want to make a difference and you want to help someone, then this is the kind of work you could do,” added Gina Thompson.

The work can also be intense, the key, according to Thompson and Peters, is to stay calm.

“Usually you tell someone about one of the worst times in their life, they might be upset, they might cry. Their sense of time is different when they’re in an emergency. So when you stay calm and that you’re able to help them, it really helps keep them calm, gets them back on the roads and you know you can get them the help they need,” said Gina Thompson.

“I think what’s important is that the person who wants to become a dispatcher is calm, composed and has very rational problem-solving skills. Not only that, I believe you have to have your heart in the right place and want to serve and protect the community,” Samuel Peters, Sheriff’s Emergency Services Dispatcher.

To become a dispatcher, no experience is necessary.

What is required:

  • You must have a high school diploma
  • Pass the CritiCall test
  • Willing to have a flexible schedule

As an intern you earn $26.56 per hour and as a dispatcher you earn $29.44 per hour.

For more information on how to apply, click here.

RELATED WATCH: A Rare Look Inside San Diego Sheriff’s Crime Lab (June 2022).

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