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Cobb Emergency Communications supports bipartisan bills to reclassify 911 dispatchers

911 Dispatcher viewing his computer screen
December 31, 2023

Cobb dispatchers support bipartisan bills

The Cobb County Department of Emergency Communications (DEC) is calling on the community to help pass two bipartisan bills that would reclassify 911 dispatchers and call-takers nationwide as “Protective Service Occupations” in the federal government’s Standard Occupation System (SOC) system. The re-classification would put them in a category that would give them access to more training, mental health support, and equitable benefits. 911 professionals are currently categorized as “Office and Administrative Support Occupations,” along with office clerks and debt collectors.

Cobb DEC announced that it is backing both bills, the Supporting Accurate Views of Emergency Services Act (911 SAVES Act, H.R. 6319), sponsored by Representatives Norma Torres (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and the Enhancing First Response Act (S. 3556) sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and John Thune (R-SD). Both bills have garnered widespread backing amongst the emergency response community. 

“I’ve grown up in this industry, working as a 911 professional for 33 years. I can’t stress enough how long overdue this is,” said DEC Director Melissa Alterio. “Reclassifying 911 professionals as first responders on the national level not only acknowledges the immense pressure and responsibility they bear but also ensures they receive the recognition and resources they deserve.” 

Public safety telecommunicators are often the first point of contact in emergencies, working tirelessly to ensure swift and effective responses to crises. They utilize life-saving protocols to provide emergency medical instructions, deal with callers having mental health crises, and coordinate the dispatch of law enforcement, fire, and medical personnel. Despite their pivotal role in the emergency response chain, these professionals have been historically classified as administrative support. The proposed legislation in both the House of Representatives and the Senate seeks to rectify this classification, recognizing the critical nature of their responsibilities. 

The bills, which have gained bipartisan sponsorship, aim to address critical issues such as training, mental health support, and equitable benefits for public safety telecommunicators. This change in classification offers a recruitment and retention advantage to many 911 centers nationwide, an issue that many centers need help with. 

As the legislative process unfolds, public safety telecommunicators nationwide remain hopeful that these bills will receive the attention and support they deserve. This legislative effort seeks to bring their classification to the mission-critical work performed. It recognizes the indispensable role 911 professionals play in ensuring the safety and well-being of communities nationwide. 

On behalf of 911 professionals across the United States, we urge the community to get involved and support these bipartisan bills by contacting your state senator and house representatives and asking them to support the 911 SAVES and Enhancing First Response Act.