Legislators Reintroduce Bill to Change Job Classification of 911 Dispatchers Nationwide

Livingston County, Missouri Sheriff’s Office E-911 and Communications.

Legislators have reintroduced a bill in Congress that would change the job classification of 911 dispatchers nationwide.

The 911 SAVES Act would classify 911 dispatchers under “protective service occupations” instead of “office and administrative support occupations,” adding them to the same category as firefighters, law enforcement officers, corrections officers and other public safety staff. (EMS providers are classified under healthcare occupations.)

The bill was co-authored by Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and is currently cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 49 other lawmakers.

“As someone who answered 911 calls for LAPD for nearly 18 years, I know firsthand that dispatchers are unsung heroes in our emergency response system,” Torres said in a statement. “Lives are at stake with each all they take – it’s beyond time that we recognize the high stakes of the job, and the incredible sacrifices these professionals make to keep the rest of us safe.”

Torres also added that the current classification under office and administrative support staff doesn’t reflect the high PTSD rates among 911 dispatchers, which she said go up to nearly 25%.

“As a former FBI agent, I know first-hand the lifesaving services provided by our 9-1-1 operators and dispatchers are vital for the safety of our community,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “When in danger, we call 9-1-1 and depend on the hard-working, dedicated public servants on the other end of the line to ensure we get the help we need. They are the first responders among first responders.”

The bill is backed by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

“America’s 9-1-1 professionals may be the most important people you will never meet. They are the vital first link in the emergency-response chain,” said NENA CEO Brian Fontes, in a statement. “Passing the 911 SAVES Act would give the estimated 100,000 public safety telecommunications located in every community across American the respect and support they deserve while improving the government’s data collection and analysis efforts. Combined with the possible enactment of a workable Next Generation 9-1-1 bill, 2021 could mark the dawn of a new era for America’s 9-1-1 systems and the hard-working professionals wh​​o lead and staff them.”

The 911 SAVES Act was previously introduced in the 116th Congress in 2019.

Some state and local governments h​​ave passed legislation classifying 911 dispatchers among first responders; most recently, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly signed a bill classifying dispatchers as emergency responders statewide.

Story written by Laura French | Police1.com

Four Missouri Counties Receiving 911 Funding Support

Photo: Douglas County Sheriff Chris Degase, Assessor Alicia Degase and Ava City Mayor Burrely Loftin attend a phone conference with the Missouri 911 Service Board.

Four southern Missouri counties are set to receive a $770,000 grant to improve area service that would allow Text-to-911 and boost coverage. The four are Ozark, Howell, Douglas and Wright counties.

Douglas County Sheriff Chris Degase says in a social media post, earlier this month, he and his county’s Assessor Alicia Degase and Ava City Mayor Burrely Loftin attended a phone conference with the Missouri 911 Service Board and those involved in the grant.

To provide some background, the sheriff says he and Assessor Degase began working with the Missouri 911 Service Board, along with Wri-Comm Director Jeff Holman and Howell County 911 in an effort to secure a grant.

He says Assessor Degase began working on the 911 project over five years ago and assigning physical locations to property. These physical locations can be found on tax bills.

Both the sheriff and the assessor have met with the new commission who will be assisting as the project moves forward to provide the citizens of Douglas County and the City of Ava with 911 services.

Mike Phillips, ENP, president of the Missouri 911 Directors Association, says, “These are the services that save lives. It’s been 20 years since we’ve seen any of these … counties move up in their service levels.”

Prior to the funding announcement, Douglas and Ozark counties did not have their own 911 answering equipment. Calls during emergencies currently head to seven-digit phone lines, where those taking calls do not receive any information on the caller, requiring the citizen to provide their names and locations.

​”​This is going to allow for Douglas County, which has no 911, and Ozark, who has 911, but their equipment is outdated,” Wright County Communications Director Jeff Holman says.

Funding will also help Wright and Howell counties pinpoint the location of the caller through equipment. They will also be able to accept text messaging in all four of the counties.

The grant was pa​​rt of nearly $2 million in funding awarded by the Missouri 911 Service Board.

Overall, this moves local services to what is described as Phase II. Comparably, 99.2% of the nationwide population already benefits from at least Phase II level service.

“This is going to allow for Douglas County, which has no 911, and Ozark County, to upgrade their equipment, to allow them to have text and 911,” Holman notes.