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Dispatcher Recruitment

What does Fire Communications do?

San José Fire Communications is staffed by highly experienced, trained and motivated people who are proud to be the first point of contact for those requiring emergency service in our community.  The San José Fire Department Communications Center is recognized as an Accredited Center of Excellence (ACE) by the International Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatch. Only 184 communication centers worldwide have earned this honor. 

Fire Communications employees serve a critical role in assuring that emergency services are delivered promptly and effectively:

    • Answer 9-1-1 emergency and non-emergency calls for fire department and emergency medical assistance.
    • Provide life-saving instructions to callers until responders arrive.
    • This includes providing over-the-phone instructions on CPR, choking rescue, and childbirth, along with ensuring caller safety during fire, HAZMAT, and other dangerous incidents.
    • Ensure that responders are sent to the correct location, equipped with the information they need to handle the emergency.
    • Support the needs of responders throughout emergency incidents. They assist incident commanders with managing and tracking resources, mobilizing logistical needs, and ensuring personnel accountability and safety.

San José Fire Communications has 45.48 authorized personnel: 

    • 30.48 Public Safety Radio Dispatchers
    • 11 Senior Public Safety Dispatchers
    • 3 Supervising Public Safety Dispatchers
    • 1 Senior Office Specialist 

The Assistant Fire Chief serves as the Communications Manager. 

 image of a dispatcher at console

To meet the needs of its large population, the San José Fire Communications Center has a state-of-the-art dispatch center. Systems include: 

  • Fire Priority Dispatch System (FPDS) to provide pre-arrival and safety instructions for fire emergencies, resulting in “zero response time”
  • Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS) to provide pre-arrival instructions for medical emergencies, also resulting in "zero response time"
  • Fully-computerized West Communications "Power 911" telephone system
  • Hexagon Intergraph Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system with ProQA software for FPDS and MPDS
  • Ergonomic sit or stand dispatch work stations

What's it like to be a dispatcher?

Dispatchers work eight, nine, or ten hour shifts.  All dispatchers who have successfully passed the training program are able to bid for their shift. Bids are based on seniority, with the most senior person being able to bid their shift first and then proceeding down the list. Bids are done once a year.

Each shift will have between five and eight dispatchers on duty. Days off within the shifts vary and may be in the middle of the week.  When dispatchers bid they not only select the shift hours they want to work, they select the days off within that shift as well, based on shifts determined to meet call volume. 

The Communications Center is a 24/7 operation running 365 days a year. Dispatchers work holidays and weekends. They are also subject to overtime, both voluntary and mandatory, on a regular basis. 

Emergency Calls & Dispatching

One of the main duties of the communications dispatcher is to determine what type of assistance is needed. Dispatchers must take a person’s story and condense it into a brief explanation of what happened and why fire or medical attention is needed. As you may imagine, when people call 9-1-1 they are usually upset, angry, or in distress; therefore, getting an explanation of why help is needed is not always an easy task. 

Dispatchers assigned to work a radio position are responsible for dispatching emergency fire units to calls for service. These dispatchers are responsible for tracking the status of all fire companies within the City of San José. 

Field Communications

image of an Incident Dispatcher working at an Incident Command Post  San José fire dispatchers also operate an Incident Dispatch Team (IDT)Certified and qualified members of San José Fire Communications respond to the scene of major events and provide on-scene communications, resource accountability, and documentation support at the incident command post. This support has become an important part of overall incident command and risk management during critical incidents. San José's dispatchers provide this expertise locally as well as through the state's fire and rescue mutual aid system. 
How can I become a dispatcher?

Entry-level applicants and experienced applicants are encouraged to apply as a Public Safety Radio Dispatcher Trainee. We have an intensive training program for both the entry-level and experienced dispatcher.

If you are considering embarking on the road to a rewarding career as a public safety dispatcher, along with the information aforementioned, keep in mind the following:
  • The dispatcher's job is stationary.
  • Most of the work we do is verbal.
  • We must be able to multitask.
  • We need to interact with many different people on a daily basis.
  • We serve a diverse, multicultural, multilingual community.  Bilingual candidates are encouraged to apply.
  • We have high visibility - our performance is always recorded.
  • We have a high level of responsibility to the public. There are serious consequences if errors are made.
  • We must provide information and make decisions with little time to spare.
  • We perform duties that may be critical to the safety of the public and firefighters.
  • Initially, we complete over a year’s worth of training to learn and become excellent at the job.
  • We are certified and consistently receive recertification in: Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD), Emergency Fire Dispatch (EFD), CPR, and the use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).
  • Uniforms are required.

You may view our job flyer for additional information.

Minimum Qualifications
  • Successful completion of high school, GED, or California Proficiency Certificate. 
  • Three (3) years customer contact experience OR (1) year of experience receiving, processing and/or dispatching calls in a radio dispatch or call center.  
  • Successful completion of an intensive background investigation.  
  • U.S. citizenship or legal authorization to work in the United States upon appointment.

Salary and Benefits
  • Excellent Salary
  • Shift Differential payment
  • Bilingual pay differential
  • $500.00 Uniform Allowance
  • Medical, Dental and Vision plans
  • City of San José Retirement


If you are interested in being notified when future application or testing processes occur, please join the SJFD - Dispatcher Recruitment News Flash email list