Behind the scenes 911 dispatch training

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - 911 operators must make quick decisions under intense pressure and how they handle a call may mean the difference between life and death.

That's why Charleston County is using a new high-tech tool to find who has what it takes.

Spend some time inside Charleston County's consolidated 911 center, and you will quickly realize it takes someone special to work here.

Deputy Director Allyson Burrell says, "We're talking about someone who has the ability to maybe be on the phone, listen, type at the same time as well as comprehend and process everything the caller is telling them."

But before they can work, they have to start by taking a computerized test called a CritiCall.

"There are ten different sections on the test that measure ten different skills that you may or may not have," said Administrative Services Coordinator Kristin Richards.

The test includes a typing section, because on a real call a dispatcher has to take down information fast.

"You do have to achieve at least 35 or more words a minute on that section," Richards says."You're having to maybe multi task. You're having someone speak to you while you're having to read information and enter information as well."

Officials say between 75 and 80 percent fail, but they have a chance to come back six months later and try again.

The CritiCall test is only one part of the application process to be a 911 dispatcher. Candidates also participate in what's a vigorous interview process and must also take a polygraph test and go through a criminal background check.

Charleston County has openings for 22 dispatchers.

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