There has been more push behind the reclassification of 9-1-1 dispatchers in the past few years.
The 9-1-1 SAVES Act is the first of its kind to give 9-1-1 dispatchers the recognition they deserve, according to congresswoman Norma Torres, who introduced the bill.
“What it means is basically it would reclassify us from secretarial office support classification to first responder,” said Captain Jennifer Protzman, the communications center manager for the St. Joseph Police Department.
Right now, it is gaining bipartisan support in the House and Senate. The idea of this change was initiated by the Office of Management and Budget in 2014 for the 2018 Standard Occupational Classification.
It would relabel Public Safety Telecommunicators as a protective service along with police officers, firefighter and EMS members.
Protzman explains how the bill started to get more traction, “Congressman Torres from California is one of the two who have been instrumental in getting this bill going. She was a dispatcher for over seventeen years. So, I think that is key, that she knows. She’s been in that chair and she knows how it is.”
The hope with the reclassification is some of the other changes it may bring such as more resources and training nationwide.
Missouri requires 40 hours of training to be a dispatcher and continuing training every few years. However, according to Protzman, the training is different here in St. Joseph.
“We actually train our dispatchers for six months, approximately 880 hours of training and it’s an intense training program. That’s aside from any online training or outside training that we send them to — some of which is required as part of the job,” Protzman said.
Protzman also stressed the importance that it’s not just about answering the phone.
“The operators here are dealing with people in the worst moment, you know, maybe the worst day in their life or they’ve come in contact with some threat or they’ve been a victim of some crime. They’re often ones that are trying to talk a suicidal person down while waiting for the police to get there,” Protzman said.
The proposed bill has yet to be considered by a committee, but has gained new supporters this month.