911 Operator Job Descriptions, Average Salary, Interview Questions

What Does a 911 Operator Do?

A 911 operator relays reports of distress to the appropriate law enforcement agency. These public safety telecommunicators work in emergency response centers. They are responsible for taking phone calls, rapidly gathering critical details, then forwarding relevant information to the proper safety department to respond to emergency situations.

911 operators maintain a professional demeanor throughout calls, keeping their composure while gathering information required to assess the severity and urgency of the situation. While operating computer-aided dispatch programs, they take a high volume of calls and are required to keep accurate records at all times. It is crucial for 911 operators to possess excellent communication and decision-making skills in order to ensure the safety of the public.

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National Average Salary

911 operator salaries vary by experience, industry, organization size, and geography. To explore salary ranges by local market, please visit our sister site zengig.com.

The average U.S. salary for a 911 Operator is:


911 Operator Job Descriptions

It’s important to include the right content in your job description when hiring a 911 operator. The following examples can serve as templates for attracting the best available talent for your team.

Example 1

Description of duties/essential functions

The ABC Emergency Center assists citizens of Houston with the most efficient, accurate and professional service when processing emergency calls by taking care of each citizen, one call at a time. We are seeking qualified individuals who are interested in a dynamic career and share the same passion and commitment in being the first responder when a citizen calls. The successful candidate responds to citizens’ requests for emergency services by determining the type of problem and transferring the 9-1-1 telephone calls to the appropriate agencies.

Emergency Communications work can be difficult but rewarding, allowing you to truly make a difference in the lives of fellow citizens. This position will involve the need for great focus and attentiveness during calls because the cost of mistakes can be life threatening.


9-1-1 Operators help determine the appropriate personnel required at the scene of emergency and non-emergency situations by performing the following duties:

  • Answers 9-1-1 emergency telephone calls from citizens or agencies for Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services in a timely manner.
  • Determines the nature and priority of the emergency and assists callers in a professional and efficient manner.
  • Multi-tasks between and operates various electronic telephone equipment, i.e., Vesta 9-1-1 and Cisco Telephone Systems. Uses equipment to receive and transfer incoming calls, to replay calls for clarification and to process hearing impaired calls using a TDD device.
  • Enters essential call and location information into Window’s Operating System and various applications of the Vesta 9-1-1 System to view and retrieve information efficiently.
  • Recognizes critical situations and alerts supervisor on complicated and unusual situations.
  • Physically locates 9-1-1 telephone calls and identifies vehicles’ locations using the geographic display (MapStar).
  • Refers calls to City departments other than Police and Fire and outside governmental, social or community agencies.
  • Remains calm, composed, undistracted and in full control of cognitive abilities while functioning appropriately in stressful situations.
  • Maintains rational cognitive/decision-making ability and emotional self-control in situations or interactions that are personally offensive (cases of child abuse, child molestation, sexual assault, extreme trauma or death, etc.) or which involve considerable stress or hostility.
  • Maintain composure and exercise restraint when verbally provoked in hostile or violent interactions.
  • Gathers appropriate information in interactions and documents information accurately as provided.
  • Interacts with a variety of people functioning under various emotional states to manage interpersonal conflicts, obtain or give information, give aid or to provide service.
  • Sufficient cognitive skills (i.e., intelligence, concentration, and memory) such that the employee is mentally alert, able to discern subtle cues of impending danger, and make rational decisions at a reasonable speed
  • Sufficient clarity of speech, hearing and other communication capabilities, which permits the employee to communicate effectively, including during emergency situations which may involve a high degree of noise.
  • Maintaining a mental fitness and readiness will enable the employee to handle potentially serious or life-threatening situations.
  • Able to respond to and recover from stressful and adverse interactions.
  • Able to demonstrate truthfulness and directness.
  • May be required to be “on call” during emergency situations.
  • Duties include but are not limited to attendance at work regularly and, as necessary, be prepared to remain onsite, except for supervisory approved meal/breaks, for the entire scheduled work shift. May require performing other duties.

Educational requirements

  • Requires a high school diploma or a GED.
  • Must pass City administered tests.

Experience requirements

  • One (1) year of experience in a high volume telephone or customer service environment or a high stress environment is required.

License requirements

  • Must provide certification of successful completion of or complete within one year of employment a telecommunications training program in compliance with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) guidelines.


  • Preference will be given to those applicants with experience in an environment similar to Public safety (e.g., Police, Ambulance or Fire), or with previous Telecommunications experience.
  • Bilingual skills (Spanish: speak, read, and write) are highly preferred.
  • Due to constant communication with citizens, quality customer service experience is critical.
  • Preference will be given to internal and local candidates who meet minimum qualifications as NO RELOCATION is provided.
  • For Part-Time positions, preference will be given to candidates with experience as a 911 Telecommunicator with the ABC Emergency Center.

Must be able to pass a criminal background check, and obtain and maintain federally mandated security clearances where required.

Selection/skills tests required

  • Must be able to pass a City-administered PC keyboard test proficiency of 30 wpm and a CritiCall skills assessment test to move further through the selection process, as well as successfully pass a Criminal background check.
  • Applicant also must pass hearing test, psychological evaluation, and thorough background/employment/education checks and successful interview.

Example 2

General description and classification standards

  • Receives and processes emergency calls from the public in the 911 Center.
  • Determines the nature and location of the emergency and passes information to the appropriate dispatcher for action (fire, police, other public safety).
  • Provides information and instructions to the caller depending on the emergency circumstances.
  • May remain in communication with caller if needed for liaison.
  • Keeps notes, recordings, records, etc. as required.

Essential duties & responsibilities

  • Performs multiple tasks simultaneously; takes appropriate action when presented with a stressful life-or-death situation; remains calm under all circumstances.
  • Answers multiple telephone lines and calls for 911 services within the ABC Police Department jurisdiction and processes information for dispatching as required or transfers calls to appropriate agencies. Communicates effectively and coherently with all callers to address public safety needs and provide responses as required.
  • Determines correct location and which units to dispatch on calls; confirms field units are responding as requested and in a timely manner.
  • Notifies agencies required to handle incident ambulance, fire, public utilities, etc.
  • Maintains contact with distressed callers until officers’ arrival to assist; calms caller and takes control of conversation.
  • Works assigned shifts. Contacts various utility companies to resolve problems such as gas detection, power failures, etc.; contacts telephone companies for assistance in obtaining addresses of distressed callers.
  • Notifies supervisor of critical situations and of problems with communications equipment. Maintains current field and code manuals, policy and procedures, employee handbooks, various maps, etc., for reference and/or review. May perform general administrative duties such as replenishing various forms, making copies, forwarding information to various departments, and performing other administrative, clerical tasks assigned by supervisor. Uses an operator’s control console, automatic number and location identifier boxes, and telephones when receiving emergency and non-emergency calls; operates call playback equipment recording all calls; may change recorder tape and clean the unit.
  • May operate telecommunications device for the deaf and various radio devices for communications.
  • Utilizes a computer, printer, etc., to enter, store and retrieve data, to type in/dispatch calls and to disseminate information to others on the system using knowledge of various software programs effectively and efficiently.
  • May complete police incident reports and other reports and documents as needed.
  • May complete maintenance requests for equipment needing service and/or repair.

Knowledge, skills & abilities 

  • General knowledge of use of telecommunications and data terminal systems; of fire, police, and emergency services organizations and services; of internal procedures.
  • Skill in effectively communicating and interacting with callers and with internal contacts (dispatchers, other jurisdictions) in stressful situations.

Minimum qualifications education and experience

  • High school diploma or GED required; must be willing to perform shift work.

Preferred education & experience

  • High school diploma plus 1-2 years of work experience in a call center, security office, or related.

Licensures and certifications

  • None required at time of hire. May be required to obtain GCIC or other certification as a condition of continued employment.

Example 3

Purpose of classification

This classification aims to answer multiple telephone lines, communicate effectively with persons requesting emergency and non-emergency police, fire, or EMS assistance, clearly relay appropriate information for dispatch or transfer calls, and maintain logs and records of communications activities.

Essential functions 

  • Performs multiple tasks simultaneously; takes appropriate action when presented with a routine call or a stressful life/death situation; remains calm under all circumstances.
  • Answers incoming telephone calls; receives and transmits information, complaints, and requests for assistance.
  • Communicates effectively and coherently over law enforcement, fire, rescue, and EMS radio channels; obtains necessary information; dispatches patrol cars, detectives, rescue squads, wreckers, and fire trucks; requests ambulances as needed; conducts investigations on some calls; assigns case numbers to calls.
  • Maintains conversation with caller to obtain/verify pertinent information and to comfort them until assistance arrives; gives emergency medical pre-arrival instructions and CPR assistance over the telephone; interacts with highly emotional people who are experiencing death, illness, domestic abuse, child abuse, mental illness, suicide, natural disasters, etc.
  • Operates teletype NCIC/FCIC and Palms; enters and retrieves information from computer; modifies, locates, maintains, saves, and/or clears files and records within database.
  • Operates radios; monitors radio channels.
  • Provides information and addresses to the public and police as requested; maintains information on pursuits; knows location of units at all times.
  • Updates City and County locations and phone numbers.
  • Maintains logs and records of radio activities, police actions, and calls taken by Fire Department; prepares and files a variety of reports.
  • Notifies appropriate personnel and/or supervisor of critical situations, weather related information, and problems with communications or computer equipment.
  • Attends training courses as offered by the department or as required by law to maintain applicable certifications, remain informed of departmental operations, and to promote improved job performance.
  • Cooperates with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and their officers or representatives when activities are related to investigations with City jurisdiction.

Additional functions

  • Takes and relays messages to officers, firefighters, other divisions, or local agencies; disseminates information to various departments and divisions.
  • Maintains cleanliness of work area; restocks supplies.

Communication competencies

  • Effectively communicates with supervisor, employees, other departments, contractors, companies, vendors, outside agencies, the public, and other individuals as needed to coordinate work activities, review status of work, exchange information, or resolve problems.
  • Accurately and expeditiously receives and delivers messages and information to the appropriate individuals.
  • Ability to prepare accurate and thorough written records and reports.
  • Ability to understand and follow oral and written instructions and to complete assigned tasks with minimal supervisory direction.
  • Ability to understand and quickly and accurately follow brief oral and written instructions on moderately complex matters.
  • Ability to effectively communicate with co-workers, management, Police Officers, Firefighters, Paramedics and the general public.

Minimum qualifications

  • High school diploma or equivalent; supplemented by little or no previous experience or training involving dispatching.
  • Must be able to obtain certification as an Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD), and become certified by the Florida and National Crime Information Center (FCIC/NCIC) within six months of employment in addition to basic Telecommunicator training.
  • Must possess and maintain a valid Florida driver’s license.

Knowledge, skills, and abilities

  • Knowledge of the rules and regulations governing emergency communications.
  • Knowledge of the National and Florida Crime Center’s Systems, procedures, and methods of accessing and inputting data.
  • Knowledge of City and Department rules, regulations, policies and procedures.
  • Knowledge of police/fire methodology and terminology.
  • Knowledge of the geographical features of the City.
  • Skilled at paying attention to minute detail in the performance of job duties.
  • Ability to achieve a high level of compliance in the performance of duties.
  • Ability to deal courteously and fairly when engaged in any activity with the public.
  • Demonstrated ability to achieve a high level of compliance in the performance of duties.
  • Ability to establish and maintain harmonious working relationships with other co-workers, supervisors, other departments, Police Officers, Firefighters, Paramedics, other governmental and regulatory agencies and the general public.
  • Ability to effectively and clearly communicate both orally and in writing.
  • Ability to function and remain calm in a high stress environment.

Sample Interview Questions

  • How well do you deal with stressful situations?
  • Describe a stressful work situation and how you handled it?
  • Describe a time you’ve had to deal with an emergency situation?
  • How would you react if a caller becomes uncooperative or hostile?
  • Describe your multitasking abilities and give examples.
  • Why do you want to be a 911 operator?
  • How fast can you type?
  • How do you prioritize your work?
  • What are the qualities that make a good 911 operator?
  • What languages do you speak?
  • How would you handle a caller who you can’t understand?
  • What skills do you posess that will make you a good 911 operator?

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