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National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week: Demographics

As we spend time this week honoring the nation’s public safety telecommunicators, it is important to review statistics surrounding public safety answering points (PSAPs) and telecommunicators to fully understand how omnipresent they are. While there is no official documentation on how many telecommunicators are employed in the U.S., conservative estimates appearing in Dispatch Magazine On-Line, using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 1999, place the number at nearly 196,000. At that time, there were 5,000 PSAPs in the U.S. Now, there are more 8,000; therefore, it is likely that the number of dispatchers has risen proportionally.

Nationwide, Texas has the most PSAPs, with 663 according to the Federal Communications Commission’s PSAP Registry, which was last updated on March 20, 2012. New Hampshire has the fewest PSAPs (4), followed by the District of Columbia (7). From the 8,329 PSAPs listed in the FCC’s registry, 848 were “orphaned” from the original registry that began in 2003. This means that they are no longer considered primary call-taking answering points, though they may still be operating as secondary answering points. The majority of these took place in North Carolina, where 165 PSAPs were orphaned. Since the original posting, 554 PSAPs across the U.S. have been added, and 679 changed name, state, county or city. Many of the reported name changes are likely due to the consolidation of multiple PSAPs into one that encompasses a wider geographical area. The maps below provide a visual representation of the location of PSAPs in counties and cities around the U.S.




Analyst’s Take:

With the recent economic struggles experienced by many state and local agencies, the demographics surrounding PSAPs and telecommunications are constantly shifting. As localities face tighter budgets, many have begun to consolidate into regional PSAPs, while others have chosen to lay off employees. At the same time, the increasing use of cell phones means that more people have the ability to report a crime at a moment’s notice, which leads to greater call volume and the need for more dispatchers. Generally, as populations continue to grow, the number of PSAPs will likely increase, and hopefully the number of dispatchers as well.

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