E911 dispatchers seek job reclassification

People who answer your 911 calls want to be recognized.

Dispatchers, or telecommunicators, are classified as secretaries by the office of management and business. That’s why local county E911 centers want their jobs reclassified. Local E911 centers are joining an initiative asking to be considered as first responders instead.

No matter what kind of emergency call comes in, Donna Laird is there to answer when you need her most. She has answered emergency calls for more than 20 years. But she still believes people don’t fully understand what she does.

She says: “We do answer the phone. We do talk on the radio, but it’s emergency circumstances sometimes and a lot of times.”

Laird says she wants to be recognized as important, even if she helps save lives from behind a desk. She says her job includes: “Saving someone from choking helping someone to relax their breathing.”

There are states that don’t require emergency medical dispatching, but 911 Director Josh Glover says when his telecommunicators can give you lifesaving advice, they want to be reclassified as protective service jobs, the same status as police and firemen and women. With that classification, they can qualify for more benefits, but this is the first step so they can better help you.

Glover says: “How long can you hold your breath if you don’t have someone there that’s providing that information, who’s getting those responders there? How long can you hold your breath?”

Laird says she loves her job, but she wants to be seen. She says: “Everybody’s thinking the fire department or EMS or whoever help, but you rarely see a thanks to the dispatcher.”

There can be a difference between dispatchers and telecommunicators. In some parts of the country, all dispatchers can do is send crews and equipment, whereas telecommunicators can walk you through what to do in an emergency.

It’s a national initiative, but telecommunicators have not been reclassified because there is a time limit. Supporters can send comments to legislators now, but only until 2017. If telecommunicators are not reclassified, their next shot would not be until 2028.

Reclassifying telecommunicators would mean they could apply for higher wages and better insurance benefits.

If you would like to send a letter or email in support, you can contact your state legislators, or the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials Government Relations staff:

Jeff Cohen cohenj@apcointl.org

Mark Reddish reddishm@apcointl.org

Or go to www.apcointl.org/soc for more information.

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