LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A new bill could give 911 dispatchers the recognition some say is long overdue. The bill would reclassify dispatcher jobs as first responders. The change could allow them to get the same mental health and training benefits as other first responders.
A congresswoman from California is spearheading the 911 Saves Act. To this day, dispatchers are still classified as clerical workers.
“We work anywhere from 10-14-hour shifts, basically saving as many lives as we can,” said Matt Gogan, vice president of the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials.
They experience some of the same trauma as first responders, but many of them don’t have the same access to trauma resources or training.
Gogan, a dispatcher at Las Vegas Fire and Rescue, said the association is the largest and oldest international organization that represents 911 dispatchers across the world
“We average just over 700,000 calls a year, and we do that with anywhere from two to six call takers at a time.
Gogan said a lack of funding, in adequate training and understaffing can be the difference between life or death.
“People will sometimes have to call 911 and will have to wait several minutes to get a response. Just for someone to pick up the phone and that’s because we just don’t have enough bodies to do it,” revealed Gogan.
The designation would encourage departments to give dispatchers the same training and trauma support that officers get.
the bill would also encourage municipalities to address excessive overtime.