Facts & Figures
To get a handle on the public safety dispatching profession, we've prepared some facts and figures from our personal knowledge and publicly available sources. Also check our Statistics page that focuses on numbers reported by the public safety community itself.
Comm Centers and Dispatchers
There is no accurate source of figures on the number of full-time public safety dispatchers. One industry association claims there are 250,000 "public safety 911 professionals."
We have tried to estimate the number of public safety dispatchers by taking accurate 1999 survey figures from the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics. By taking into account the number of agencies, those that actually perform dispatching, and some best estimates, here is our figure that we believe is a conservative estimate of the number of dispatchers in America:
- There are 16,612 local police and sheriff's departments in the United States, 49 state police agencies, and scores of special districts (transit, school, parks, etc.) (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1999).
- There are about 13,000 fire protection agencies in the United States (National Fire Protection Association).
- Of the local police and sheriffs agencies, a total of 7,195 actually have a comm center operation for dispatching incidents. (BJS, 1999)
- Of those, there are 489 police and sheriff's departments with more than 100 sworn officers, (BJS, 1999), and we figure an average staff of 65 dispatchers.
- Of those dispatching, there are 6,706 police and sheriff's departments with fewer than 100 officers (BJS, 1999), and we figure an average staff of 6 dispatchers.
- Most fire comm centers have smaller staffs than law enforcement, which we figure as an average of 9 dispatchers.
- Of the 49 state police agencies, we estimate 3,500 dispatchers (average of about 70 per state).
- Of the special districts, we estimate 1,500 dispatchers (15 dispatchers at these agencies in each of America's 100 largest cities).
|489 police & sheriffs x 65 dispatchers
|6,706 police & sheriffs x 6 dispatchers
|13,000 fire agencies with 9 dispatchers
|49 state police
|unknown special districts
- Based on these figures, there are at least 195,791 full-time public safety dispatchers. It seems likely that we haven't counted many other types of public safety agencies that perform dispatching. However, we also may have overcounted the number of fire agencies who perform dispatching. These two factors may cancel each other out, and make this figure rather accurate.
- NENA has a registry of 6,121 public safety answering points (PSAP), comm centers that handle 911 calls.
- The U.S. Department of the Labor has evaluated the public safety job market, and interestingly, appears to have used our earlier workforce estimate!
- There are 5,000 public safety answering points (PSAPs) in the U.S., defined as the primary/first answering point for 911. (NENA, 2001)
- There are 97,000 personnel employed by 911 systems/agencies. (NENA, 2001)
Note: Our figures were overhauled in Dec. 2001 based on more accurate figures from BJS on the number of law enforcement agencies with dispatch operations. However, the final figure is very close to our original estimate of 217,024 that we made back in 1999. We reiterate that our estimate is likely low.
- 911 was first implemented in Haleyville, Alabama on February 16, 1968--but read our complete history of 911 and the first call.
- 240 million calls to 911 each year, with one-third of them wireless (2008, FCC)
- 99% of the population is covered by at least B911, and 96% of counties have at least B911 service [Of 3,135 counties and parishes, 170 have limited 911 capabilities: 84 have Basic 911, 86 have so-called "remote call forwarding"] (2009, NENA)
- In Britain, over 43 million calls to the 999 emergency number are made annually, and over 50% of those are from wireless phones (British Office of Communications, 2004).
- 99% of the population is covered by some type of 911 system, and 97% geographically (NENA, Sept. 2007)
- 225 counties still have no 911 service (NENA, Sept. 2007)
- 1,296 PSAPs are staffed by a single, on-duty dispatcher (NENA, 2003)
- Washington (DC) receives 1.8 million 911 calls per year, Los Angeles 5 million, Baltimore (MD) 1.7 million.
- At some agencies--usually the very large, urban cities--up to 80% of 911 calls on non-emergencies.
- During Oct. 2001 testimony to Congress, CTIA president Thomas Wheeler said that his association had identified 6,800 PSAPs, while NENA has identified 5,000 primary and 2,300 secondary PSAPs in the U.S. This figure only includes those comm centers receiving 911 calls, which could leave out thousands of public safety comm centers.
- Check statistics on wireless 911 calls, both real and accidental.
- NENA has wireless E911 deployement statistics posted on-line, and FastFacts about 911 in general.
- Originated from AT&T after discussions with several Florida county sheriffs on a way to reduce the number of 911 calls they were receiving.
- AT&T suggested using a toll-free number to handle non-emergency law enforcement calls--(800) 379-COPS.
- Baltimore approached AT&T to test the concept, but decided to use the three-digit number 311. Baltimore did not have a 7-digit non-emergency number before the program started. They paid for the test with a $300,000 federal grant.
- In the first year of operation, calls to Baltimore 911 have been reduced 20%, average answer time has been reduced 60% and busy signals to 911 calls have been reduced by 68%. The state of Maryland is planning to roll 311 out to other counties, and eventually state-wide.
- Chicago and Dallas have implemented a city-service 311 system (Dec. 1998). Dallas found that their 911 calls decreased by just 6% after implementing 311.
- In April, 1999 the federal Department of Justice, through the COPS program, gave several cities grants to implement or expand their 311 systems: Baltimore ($422,366), Birmingham (Ala.) $434,080), Dukes County (Mass.) $176,140), Houston ($637,464), Los Angeles ($912,000), Miami (Fla.) ($423,737), South Pasadena/Pasadena (Calif.) ($460,000) and Rochester (NY) ($383,900).
- San Jose (Calif.) tested 311 as part of a state evaluation that included a test of a easily-remembered 7-digit number and public education. In March 2001 the state issued a long report saying that the results of the trial were inconclusive, and therefore no recommendation to implement 311 state-wide was made.
- Check our 311 page for more information on the subject.
- Law enforcement--state, county & municipal licensees: 26,608 (FCC, 2002)
- Fire protection--private volunteer & professional licensees: 22,677 (FCC, 2002)
- Public safety radio pool licensees: 40,512 (same)
- Emergency medical licensees: 1,460 (FCC, 2002)
- Medical services, rescue organizations, disaster relief, beach patrols and other miscellaneous: 19,478 licensees (FCC, 2002)
- Law enforcement total transmitters: 1,550,394 (FCC, 1994)
- Fire protection agency total transmitters: 826,773 (FCC, 1994)
- Total law enforcement and fire authorization requests per year: 20,258 (FCC, 1994)
- The FCC is an excellent source of information on radios, and so is our own FCC page.
- Explanation of trunked radio in non-technical terms
- Mobile radio overview, report by the NTIA
- Basic explanation of radio systems
- Facts and figures, and current issues from Wireless Week magazine
- 255 million wireless subscribers as of Jan. 1, 2008 (CTIA), or 84% of the population, using 180 carriers operating 183,689 cellular sites.
- 140,000 wireless calls to 911 daily, or 66.6 million estimated in 2006 which is about 33% of all 911 calls dialed (NENA, June 2006). Previous figures: 49,000 calls per day (1994), 59,180 per day (1996).
- 291,000 wireless 911 and distress calls per day (Dec. 2007, CTIA)
- 92% of PSAPs Phase I wireless 911 service, and 83% have Phase II (April 2008, NENA)
- 85% of the nation's counties have Phase I service, and 72% have Phase II (April 2008, NENA)
- Cellular Telecommunications & Information Association (CTIA) - facts and figures
- Strategis Group forecast on telematics users using location commercial location services [Acrobat .pdf format slides, 57k]
- Wireless Week Magazine's facts and figures Web page
- The Telecom Web site has facts and figures on wireless and 911
- Also see our Wireless 911 page
- NENA's FastFacts page of general and wireless 911 information.
Also check our page for more statistics on wireless E911.
- Of local police departments, 38% dispatched calls for service, with the others using another agency (2003, Bureau of Justice Statistics-BJS)
- Local police departments reported having 8,675 full-time officers serving as "communications technicians," mostly agencies serving populations from 2,500 to 25,000 residents. (2003, BJS).
- Of local police departments, 92% reported participating insome type of 911 system, composed of 73% E911 and 19% Basic 911 (2003, BJS).
- Of the local police departments with dispatch responsibilities , 33% are using computers for dispatch, and 69% are using computers for records management (persons, incidents, etc.). (2003, BJS).
- 69% of local law enforcement agencies serving a population over 1 million are using CAD (2003, BJS).
- 83% of all local law enforcement agencies "in field computers or terminals" (MDTs) (2003, BJS)
- Note: The figures on CAD use seem extraordinarily low. It seems impossible that so few agencies over 1 million population have not computerized their dispatching operations. Download (pdf) the full BJS report here.
- 1.4 million violent crime victimzations (2006, Bureau of Justice Statistics-BJS).
- 9.9 million property crimes, including 1.19 million vehicle thefts (2006, BJS).
- 17,034 murders and non-negligent homicides (2006, BJS)
- 181 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty
- 53% of violent crime victims don't report their crime to the police, while 50% of property crime victims didn't report the crime (2005, BJS).
- Those 12-15 years old were the most common victims (46.9%), followed by those 16-19 and 20-24 (45.0% each). (2004-2005, BJS)
- Offenders use a weapon in 8.9% of violent incidents (2005, BJS).
- The Bureau of Justice Statistics has figures on the number of law enforcement agencies and officers.
- The Bureau of Justice Statistics has crime statistics, and also a Quick Finder for crime statistics.
- The Disaster Center Web site has a collection of 1960 to 2000, state-by-state crime statistics, as well as information on law enforcement agencies.
- Key Crime & Justice Facts at a Glance, Bureau of Justice Statistics [pdf charts] 2000 statistics
- Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, on-line edition by the Department of Justice, or at this university Web site. You can also purchase the last seven years' of data on CD-ROM.
- Color poster of the sequence of events in the criminal justice system (from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in Acrobat .pdf format)
- The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) maintains statistics on fire incidents, deaths, etc. They have also compiled a fire department census.
- There were 3,245 civilians deaths due to fire, excluding the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks. (2006, USFA)
- There were 16,400 civilian injuries that occurred as the result of fire. (2006, USFA).
- There were 106 firefighters killed in duty-related incidents. (2006, USFA)
- 81% percent of all fire deaths occurred in residences. (2001, USAF)
- Over 1.6 million fires were reported in 2001. (2006, USFA)
- Direct property loss due to fires was estimated at $11.3 billion. (2006, USFA)
- National Fire Protection Association, facts and figures
- Injury statistics, interactive reports from the Centers for Disease Control
- Public safety is traditionally the fourth largest sector in state and local government, behind administration and finance, human services and transportation. The market research company Input forecasts that IT spending for state and local government will reach more than $60 billion in 2008 and about $73 billion in 2011.
- Of that spending, $50 billion will be contracted to the private sector in 2008 and $62 billion in 2011.
- Input forecasts that public safety IT spending will grow 12% to $3.4 billion in the next five years.
- The most significant overall sector growth will happen in telecommunications (from 19 percent of the budget in 2006 to 23 percent in 2011) and services (from 23% in 2006 to 30% in 2011). Software products will stay at about 9% of the total IT budget, while computer hardware is expected to drop from 16% to 14%.