Forestry Job Spotlight: Dispatcher

dsc08436-2As previously covered in an earlier blog, searching the USAjobs website can get confusing. There are hundreds of jobs out there and their job titles might not sound anything like what the position actually entails.  Even though you now know how to search for jobs according to their series and grade, you might be thrown off by the jobs that your search comes up with. For the next several months, I am going to be spotlighting specific starter positions within our public lands that you might not necessarily think to apply to. However, these are jobs that you should be applying to, as they offer an excellent foot into the door in the forestry field. This week’s spotlight is on the dispatcher position. From my experience this is a bit off the wall, and there aren’t many positions like it, even as 911 dispatcher elsewhere. Working in a national park there are a variety of emergencies that are dealt with, from hiking/climbing search and rescues, motor vehicle accidents, crimes and disabled vehicles, all of which the dispatchers handle.

Location: Usually larger and busier parks and other public lands – Many small parks will be handled by the nearest county or state agency for dispatchers.
Schedule: Most of the time there are 4/10 hour shifts but when short staffed (which is often) some centers will move to 12 hour shifts.  Many Dispatch centers are 24 hours, so the shifts usually start at 7am, noon, or 7 pm – with some variation. Not all centers are 24 hours, and some are 24 hours only part of the year. Some centers have designated positions as overnight/mop/grave yard shifts, some rotate through shifts. There are a variety of work schedules that a center can use that best fits their park and their center.
Experience Required: For most positions a bachelors is needed to enter.  Having a knowledge base about computers, phones, and radios is a must! The ability to multi task, work under stress, and prioritize are also key attributes to succeeding in this position. There are some really hard calls dealing with injury, death, crime and panic; and being able to maintain a cool level head and keep your self healthy mentally and physically is also important.
The Duties:  There are so many duties that are tied into this job. Main duties include taking initial information about incoming incidents and dispatching appropriate responses to the field. That requires guiding the conversation with the right set of questions for the specific type of incident and insuring you get as much pertinent information as possible,  then sending the appropriate response. (Sounds easy enough – but a majority of the reporting parties are upset or irate and are harder to work with due to the emergencies that is happening). Also taking note of places of officers in the field, because tracking the safety and needs of those individuals is also a large duty of dispatching. There is a decent amount of computer and paperwork that follows these incidents up.
This job is for you: If you like fast paced working environments, problem solving and thinking on your feet, don’t mind different hours and long days, you are able to stay calm and help people in crisis. Just when you think you finally have a grip on things and know what your doing a situation will come out of left field.
This job is not for you: if you have difficulty multi tasking, dealing with high stress situations, and dealing with emergencies.
Most frustrating part of job:  Technology, With lack of funding and hoops to jump through to stay with in policy, many agencies are behind on many of the new technologies, and work of old and often non functional equipment.
The most rewarding part of the job: Being able to be there for people in some of the most difficult times of their lives and get them the help they need makes it all worth it every single day. It brings a satisfaction unlike any other.