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  • Telecommunicator Positions

    Hello everyone,

    Recently, I have decided to start applying for telecommunicator/radio dispatch positions in Northern Illinois. So far, I am in the beginning stages of the application process for four agencies. I am hoping for some feedback from people who have gone through the process. I hope someone can answer my questions, they're pretty basic, but I'm a newbie at applying for positions in a LE related field so any input would be appreciated. Here are my questions:

    1. What is the testing like for these types of positions? I know that typing is a main component and I am ready for that, but what other skills are important and tested for?
    2. How many departments/dispatch positions did you apply for before you were hired? I realize that every position is different and some are more desirable than others, but would you say competition is fierce for these positions?
    3. Can anyone tell me what the eye exam is like? I understand that no one here is a doctor, but I'm wondering if the departments you are familiar with gave a full eye exam or if they gave a basic visual acuity exam (where you look at letters and numbers on a chart and read them off)? The reason I ask is because due to a congenital defect, my vision in one eye is poor and cannot be helped. However, if testing is done with both eyes together this shouldn't be a problem since I have 20/20 vision in one eye. (I am fine to look at computers and small letters and numbers on a screen in a dark room.)
    4. Getting way ahead of myself here, but what is the workload and pay like? It seems to me that most departments I apply for mention mandatory and volunteer overtime, which I am completely fine with as I don't have children, but does the base salary the departments list include overtime or is there a base salary with OT added on to that? How much overtime (if you have experience as a telecommunicator) have you had to work? Is there a lot of turnover/burnout?
    5. Finally, while the job sounds like something that I would enjoy doing/be good at, what were your experiences like?

    Anything else, you'd like to add?

    Also, in case it helps I have applied for:

    Du-Comm
    Evanston
    Des Plaines
    Palos Heights

    Thanks for reading and any answers/advice you have to spare.

  • #2
    Thanks for the info! I'll be keeping an eye out for the applications to come online.

    Comment


    • #3
      I work for a consolidate dispatch center.

      #1 - Testing varies by department. Ours has done several different tests in the years that I've been here. Typically one phase involves typing. It is fairly easy, something around 35wpm. We still have "look down 1 finter typers" here. Our written has been composed of several things including psych type questions (right/wrong kind of stuff), multitasking skills, or other tests that test your ability to pick out information. I've heard of several centers that play dispatch tapes or calls and you have to pick out information.

      #2 - I applied at 1 place and got #1 on the list. I think we only had 2 qualify for the position out of about 75 - 100 applicants. There is a lot of competition now for spots in our center. We also have a very high turnover rate, so most people that make the list still have a chance of getting hired.

      It's also worth it to note that many police/fire candidates also test as dispatchers (myself included). With the current situation with P/F depts and lack of hiring, the turnover in the dispatch field was reduced. There are far less people leaving dispatch positions for fire and police, since no one is getting hired in those jobs.


      #3 - I don't really remember the eye exam. I have perfect vision so didn't pay much attention to it, but I think it was the basic reading off of a chart, and picking the colored dot out in a scope. Lots of people have coke bottle glasses and poor vision. As long as you can read a computer screen and paper clearly, you should be fine.

      #4 - Workload also varies greatly depending on where you are, shift, and season. At my place, you can count ceiling tiles all night during winter on midnights. On afternoons in the summer, you can go 8 hours without taking a breath. The work is also way different as shifts in general. Day shift is very "secretary" like, afternoons is super busy but a lot of busy work, and midnights is slower but mostly bonafide incidents. It will also vary by department. Like I said in the last paragraph, we used to have a high turnover, and you could pretty much pick up overtime at will. Now no one is leaving ,and overtime is very hard to get.

      #5 - I really like the job. Just like any job it has political garbage, annoyances, and headaches, but overall it's a very satisfying career. It's way different than anything else in the world.

      Comment


      • #4
        Exodus259 - Thanks for the info. I must have missed it when I checked the web. Unfortunately, Des Plaines is testing the same day.

        Item9 - Thank you for your detailed response. Your answers were very helpful.

        Comment


        • #5
          It's way different than anything else in the world.
          I've gotten a couple of PMs, and the basic piece of advice that I can give is to do your research.

          Determine if you want to work for a consolidated agency or if you want to work in-house. I've found that applicants who want to make a long-term career out of dispatching are better suited for consolidated centers. Job security is better (as most departments are going that direction and dropping their in-house people), and there are more opportunities as far as pay, training, and advancement. On the other hand, younger applicants who want to eventually be the police will generally see higher levels of personal interaction with officers while working in-house that would be very beneficial.

          Then, once you've made your decision, research the agencies that are hiring. DuComm, Norcomm, WestComm, Evanston, Palos Hieghts, and Northwest Central handle vastly different type of police departments, and your workload and agency culture will vary as such. Same goes for working in-house. Ask questions and find out as much as you can to determine if your personality will be a good fit.
          Last edited by ModerateLiberal; 05-05-2011, 05:50 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            ML is right. There is a huge difference between in-house dispatching and consolidated.

            I'd rather do in-house, but typically the pay, benefits, and oppertunities are much greater with consolidated.

            Different centers have much different ways of operating. You're lucky to have a resource here that covers most of Illinois.

            I can eleborate more if needed.

            Comment


            • #7
              ModerateLiberal - Thanks for the advice. I have been doing some research and I am leaning towards making this career, so I am more interested in a consolidated center. However, I'd like to get my foot in the door and will consider all my options including single departments. Previously, I had been going back and forth between a career in something more medical (nurse, paramedic) and something in LE. At least for me, telecommunicator wasn't a job I ever considered mostly because it definatley has a lower profile than LEO, Nurse, Fire, or paramedics. But in doing my research, it seems that telecommunicator definately combines a lot of things that I enjoy doing, so I'm really hoping to find a job in this field. I will also make sure to find more info about the agencies hiring, including agency culture and work load.

              Item9 - Can you please elaborate on some of the differences between in-house and consolidated centers? One of the main things I've heard about in-house is that you get to know the people you are dispatching and develop a closer working relationship with them. That is definately a plus. But, I would also like to be in a place that has more training opportunities and more opportunity for advancement.

              Comment


              • #8
                That's the main difference. It's hard to explain if you don't have any experience. Basically in house, you are all on the same team. You can vent your frustration and confusion to responders and vice versa in person. However, at an in house, you might just be a dispatcher and that's it for the next 20 years. Consolidated is more of a "us v them" attitude. To most of the people I work for, I am just a voice at -comm. There is a lot of frustration over lack of communication, different policies, and not knowing each other. Some people like that, but I don't. There are also more oppertunities for training, supervision, special tasks, etc. Typically the pay at consolidated is much better.

                There are many pros and cons to both, and it also changes depending on the center, town, area etc. Basically it comes down to researching where you're going, like ModerateLiberal said. Pay, shifts, benefits, hours, workload, etc all make a huge difference.

                Comment


                • #9
                  h3llain3 --> I'm just like you. With all that's happening in the economy right now, for new people to enter this field is difficult at best. In most textbooks I've read, it costs up to $50,000 to train a new dispatcher. With consolidated agencies cutting the fat, and the remaining in-houses picking up the free agents, it's hard to get drafted. I'm up to 40 interviews so far. 150 applications, and counting. Have tested and interviewed with 4 different states (Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and now Oklahoma). I'm hopeful to get the chance cause I'm convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if I get it, I won't fail.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    DannyDresdan - Wow! I didn't think entering the field would be easy, but it sounds like you have been looking for a long time. If you don't mind, can you talk about the process of applying in a bit more detail? Where in the process do you seem to be getting bumped for more experienced folks?

                    I wish you luck with getting a position soon.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by h3llain3 View Post
                      DannyDresdan - Wow! I didn't think entering the field would be easy, but it sounds like you have been looking for a long time. If you don't mind, can you talk about the process of applying in a bit more detail? Where in the process do you seem to be getting bumped for more experienced folks?

                      I wish you luck with getting a position soon.
                      I appreciate your well wishes, same to you!

                      To answer your questions...

                      1) I've primarily used this site, and have asked current Telecommunicators on the boards for any information, rumors, etc. When I apply, I submit everything I have in a 9 1/2" x 12" envelope. What I have includes the application, regular resume, dispatcher-tailored resume, copy of Driver's License, copy of FOID Card, Driving record (if requested on the app), College transcript and Birth Certificate.

                      Directions are crucial. Read, and reread.

                      2) Your question and my comments beforehand should help you in getting the answers. Why would Hillside, for instance, want to hire a noob like me if they heard that La Grange cut a few dispatchers due to consolidation? They can pick up the scraps and move on without having the spend $50,000 to train a new person.

                      Outside of that, the interview process took a bit of getting used to. The hypothetical questions are general yet seldom heard when interviewing for jobs in the private sector. While I pride myself in being pretty good at interviewing for private sector positions, I haven't been able to get through in public sector interviews. I honestly can't pinpoint one specific thing that has held me back. Here's a list:

                      * Though I haven't finished college, I have 95 credit hours. A dear friend, who used to be a server, never took a single college course and that person works for Summit.

                      * I've been rejected by Antioch for feeling that I didn't care enough about the job. Yet, I was rejected by Springfield, MO for the opposite reason.

                      * It's possible that I might've been interviewed to simply fulfill an EOE requirement, too.

                      ...And, so on.

                      It's rough for us noobs especially. We can't get a job without experience, yet we need it to get a job. Sheesh!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        anyone in the process for des plaines (North Suburban Emergency Communication Center ) ? also wondering if someone who is a current dispatcher w/ another dept is pretty much a shoe in? not me but there was s girl at the test who was i'm just wondering how much of an advantage that gives her.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by raf1919 View Post
                          also wondering if someone who is a current dispatcher w/ another dept is pretty much a shoe in? not me but there was s girl at the test who was i'm just wondering how much of an advantage that gives her.
                          Not at all. Dispatching is a completely different job depending on where you go. At my place we hired someone with over 10 years of dispatching experience, but she couldn't figure out how to use a CAD system or keep up with more than 3 units on the street. I also know people that work with us, and when they do side jobs at smaller agencies everyone teases them because of all the goofy policies we have compared to a single-agency dispatcher.

                          It is a benefit to have experience, but does not make someone a shoe in.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Everybody, I got terrific news. Effective tomorrow, I'm getting my long awaited shot. Summit PD has offered me that opportunity and, after 4 years, I'll be making the most of it. Within 2 months, I hope to be LEEDS certified and have additional certifications with which to build a career.

                            I'd like to thank everybody's support and wise words for my journey up to this point. I'll need them more than ever as I immerse into the most challenging, yet most rewarding years of my life.

                            Thank you, all of you!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by DannyDresdan View Post
                              Everybody, I got terrific news. Effective tomorrow, I'm getting my long awaited shot. Summit PD has offered me that opportunity and, after 4 years, I'll be making the most of it. Within 2 months, I hope to be LEEDS certified and have additional certifications with which to build a career.

                              I'd like to thank everybody's support and wise words for my journey up to this point. I'll need them more than ever as I immerse into the most challenging, yet most rewarding years of my life.

                              Thank you, all of you!
                              That's great news, and it's LEADS!

                              Comment

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