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Essential skills profile

This profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skills is generally performed by most workers in this occupation. The levels of complexity estimated for each task are ranked between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced).

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Dispatchers and Radio Operators (1525)

Dispatchers operate radios and other telecommunication equipment to dispatch emergency vehicles and to co-ordinate the activities of drivers and other personnel. They are employed by police, fire and health departments, other emergency service agencies, taxi, delivery and courier services, trucking and utilities companies, and other commercial and industrial establishments. Radio operators receive, transmit and record signals and messages using radios and other telecommunication equipment. They are employed by transportation companies, mining, forestry and other industrial establishments, and by the armed forces.

Reading Help - Reading
Dispatchers and Radio Operators
  • Read e-mail messages dealing with scheduling details. (1)
  • Read incident reports. (2)
  • Read company and governmental policies, regulations and procedures. (2)
Dispatchers
  • May read faxes with special instructions about transporting people or goods. (1)
  • May read letters from clients. (2)
  • May read memos from organizations such as the Canadian Police Information Centre. (2)
  • May read manuals outlining requirements for towing vehicles or for transporting dangerous goods. (3)
Radio Operators
  • May refer to flight or sail plans submitted by pilots or boaters. They read these plans when aircraft or boats are overdue. (2)
  • Read manuals concerning weather, beacons and navigation points. (3)
Document use Help - Document use Dispatchers and Radio Operators
  • Read shift schedules showing the number of hours they will work on a daily and weekly basis. (2)
Dispatchers
  • Consult city directories to verify if certain addresses exist. (1)
  • Look at street and road maps to identify the best route to particular destinations. (2)
  • May read a variety of forms, such as ambulance transport forms which note the circumstances of transport and the condition of patients and taxi "trip tickets" which record the address of the customer and the cab number of the taxi dispatched. (2)
  • May use highway weigh scale charts to schedule loads for drivers. (2)
  • May complete data strips showing aircraft type, point of departure and destination. (2)
  • May interpret drawings of correct towing techniques for various vehicles. (3)
  • May complete 911 trace forms when a phone trace must be made to locate a caller. (3)
Radio Operators
  • May read telephone rate tables in the Direct Distance Dial Directory when placing marine calls. (2)
  • May enter information in weather briefing forms. (2)
  • May obtain information from the Dot Plot, a colour coded information display of weather systems in all parts of Canada. (3)
  • May take measurements from scale drawings to pinpoint areas of turbulence for pilots. (3)
  • May interpret marine charts and telcharts, the computerized version of the charts. (3)
Writing Help - Writing Dispatchers
  • Complete fax forms to answer customer inquiries. (1)
  • Take notes while talking by phone or radio. These notes are used to prepare incident reports or to maintain records. (1)
  • Write daily logs with pertinent notes for the next shift. (1)
  • Write interoffice memos and e-mail. For example, they write to the accounting office about special billings. (2)
  • May record information about school bus runs, noting any special circumstances which drivers need to know, such as a child having a broken leg. (2)
  • May write police incident reports providing names, addresses, dates, relevant background information and details of cases. (3)
  • May write ambulance reports, outlining the urgency of the call, the condition of the patient and action taken to reach family members. These reports record the information which the dispatcher has passed to the ambulance driver. (3)
Radio Operators
  • May write reports to inform supervisors that a pilot has contravened regulations. (2)
  • May write communication search reports with details of air/sea rescues conducted in their area of jurisdiction. These reports are amended each day of the search to add new information. (2)
  • May write an analysis of procedures, with recommendations for changes. (4)
Numeracy Help - Numeracy Money Math

Dispatchers

  • Perform quick addition and subtraction to inform clients of the amount owing. (1)
  • Accept payment from customers if they come into the office to pay in advance. (1)
  • May calculate the amount of money owed by customers or the payment due to independent contract employees. (2)
Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math

Dispatchers

  • May schedule deliveries, assessing road and weather conditions, routes and distances. (2)
  • Adjust delivery schedules to accommodate special needs, such as a high priority shipment. (3)
Measurement and Calculation Math

Dispatchers

  • May calculate how many trucks are needed to handle freight of a given weight and dimension. They must take into account the weight of skids and packaging and how much will fit in a load. (2)
Measurement and Calculation Math

Radio Operators

  • May calculate time and distance using radar and linear graphs. (3)
Data Analysis Math

Radio Operators

  • May compile daily operational statistics and compare them with figures from other days. (1)
Numerical Estimation

Radio Operators

  • Estimate weights of loads from customer information to make sure trucks do not exceed government or trailer manufacturer limits. (1)
  • May provide an estimated cost for a service based on distance, method of payment and previous experience in sending vehicles to the same general area. (2)
  • May estimate the time it will take for taxis at various locations to reach a customer. (2)
  • May estimate the length of time it will take for an aircraft or a vessel to travel a certain distance, taking into account weather conditions, including wind speeds. (2)
Oral communication Help - Oral communication Dispatchers and Radio Operators
  • Take direction from supervisors about changes in procedures or schedules. (1)
  • May attend staff meetings to exchange information and to discuss problems and ways of improving service. (2)
  • Exchange information about the volume of business with co-workers and co-ordinate tasks with other dispatchers. (2)
  • May interact with emergency personnel to arrange for quick and effective response by police vehicles, fire trucks or ambulances. (3)
Dispatchers
  • Talk to customers over the phone or in the office in order to determine their transportation needs. (1)
  • Listen to drivers to keep track of their locations and speak with them via a two-way radio to send them to various destinations. (2)
Radio Operators
  • May announce the marine broadcast Notices to Shipping over the radio. (1)
  • May interact with boaters and other members of the public when placing marine radio calls to and from boats. (1)
  • May provide weather briefings to small groups of pilots. (2)
  • May interact with distressed boaters or pilots to clarify their location or determine what sort of aid is needed. They communicate authoritatively and calmly to soothe captains who may be in a state of panic. (4)
  • May communicate with pilots about flight plans or alternate landing procedures. (4)
Thinking Help - Thinking

Problem Solving

Dispatchers
  • Find replacements for scheduled drivers who cancel at the last minute. (1)
  • Respond quickly by calling police if they hear a driver report a physical threat. (1)
  • May face difficulties if essential information for a "time call" is missing from the file. They search manuals and directories to find the needed phone number or address. (1)
  • Deal with irate customers when snow delays prevent cars from keeping expected schedules. They calm customers and in urgent cases may call other drivers to see if another vehicle will be able to respond more quickly than the one originally dispatched. (2)
  • May have to reassign scheduled work if a vehicle breaks down. For truck dispatchers, vehicle breakdowns require the reloading of cargo. (2)
Radio Operators
  • May lose communication with a vehicle on the runway and be unable to warn the driver to leave immediately because of incoming air traffic. They flash the runway lights on and off to alert the driver. (1)
  • May find that monitoring equipment is giving obviously false or unlikely readings. They examine the logic of the readings and turn to backup equipment until the equipment can be repaired. (2)
  • May have the computer system crash. They may call the coast guard in another jurisdiction to request emergency coverage and then search for the cause of the failure. (3)

Decision Making

Dispatchers and Radio Operators
  • Decide which of several calls is the most urgent when several calls come in at once. (1)
Dispatchers
  • May decide whether to send one or two tow-truck drivers to change a tire on a busy highway. (1)
  • May decide which police officer to dispatch to a call, taking into account such factors as the time remaining on officers' shifts and the language skills required. (2)
  • Decide which drivers to send out and which routes and vehicles to use. (2)
  • May decide whether to tell a driver to wait for a child who is not at the school gate at pickup time or whether to send the driver on another call. The decision is delicate, since time and profit must be weighed against child safety. (3)
Radio Operators
  • Decide when to switch frequencies when communicating with remote aircraft. They take into account the clearness of other frequencies and the possible needs of other users. (2)
  • Decide whether to call in formal search and rescue teams or whether simply to call on ships in the area to watch for missing boats. (4)
Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking information was not collected for this profile.

Job Task Planning and Organizing

The daily activities of dispatchers are in response to customer demands. Planning is short-term but must meet many demands, some of which are urgent. Many unpredictable variables, relating to weather, availability of staff and the condition of vehicles, must be taken into account to organize the day. Setting effective priorities is essential.

Radio operators' tasks are determined to a large extent by external and unpredictable circumstances such as planes being overdue, medical emergencies or fires on board aircraft or boats. Some parts of the day, such as times of high air or marine traffic, are busy and may require several operators working together to handle the volume. They plan their days so that they may attend to administrative matters at times when volume is light.

Significant Use of Memory
  • Remember pickup and delivery information for several hours.
  • Remember the boundaries of the areas to which drivers are assigned and the location of addresses within the boundaries.
  • Remember categories of dangerous goods so that they can advise drivers and clients on how to transport various substances.
  • Remember unique events such as a trailer parked in a different position from usual. This observation may be useful if a load is reported lost.
  • May memorize up to five hundred air/ground communication abbreviations and location identifiers.
  • Remember for several hours the details of a marine chart which is being used in a search.
  • Remember the names and voices of boaters who are frequent users of the marine telephone service.
  • Remember the buoy numbers adjacent to the most commonly hit shoals.

Finding Information

Dispatchers
  • Contact clients to get directions for the driver. (1)
  • May use a computer database to read codes indicating where various vehicles are located. (1)
  • Consult phone lists to contact customers in response to inquiries or complaints. (1)
  • Consult maps to help drivers. (1)
Radio Operators
  • May locate aviation regulations and information about aircraft types in sources such as the Canadian Air Regulations (CAR) textbook and the Manual of Operations (MANOPS). (2)
  • may seek information from colleagues on radio frequencies for various American flight services. (2)
  • May refer to data in computerized databases such as the Meteorological Information Display System (MIDS). (2)
Digital technology Help - Digital technology
  • They may type memos and reports. (2)
  • They may retrieve satellite and radar imagery and print out maps. (2)
  • They may enter invoice information. (2)
  • They may access environmental information on the Internet. (2)
  • Use other computer applications. For example, dispatchers may use paging and dispatch tow-truck software. Radio operators may obtain computer-generated information from the radar screen. (2)
  • They may compile data on transport or retrieve data from a specialized weather database. (3)
Additional information Help - Additional information Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Dispatchers mainly work independently, coordinating their work with drivers by two-way radio. While customers and drivers sometimes come to the dispatch office, the dispatcher is often alone. Dispatchers may work jointly with a partner or helper to co-ordinate pickups and deliveries, or as a member of a team that includes other dispatchers.

Radio operators generally work independently, coordinating their work with fellow radio operators at peak times. They may work with a partner at times to carry out rush activities. For instance, one radio operator may type procedures on the teletype while another grabs the data strip to find necessary information about a particular flight. Radio operators sometimes work alone, especially on night shifts. They form part of a team which includes other operators, supervisors and support staff.

Continuous Learning

Dispatchers and radio operators continue to learn. When new computer systems are introduced into the workplace, they receive training in their use. Radio operators take an eight-month course from Transport Canada to qualify for a radio operator certificate and take refresher courses from time to time, dealing with meteorology, map and chart interpretation, forecast modification and communication. They also take part in a variety of safety and first aid courses such as St. John Ambulance and firefighting.

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