Home Fire News California now recognizes dispatch operators as first responders

California now recognizes dispatch operators as first responders

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Julissa Zavala

The Hanford Sentinel, Calif.

Assembly Bill 1945, which recognizes the heroic work of public safety dispatchers by reclassifying them as first responders, was officially signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom after passing the legislature with unanimous, bipartisan support.

“This is a historic day for the thousands of emergency dispatchers who call California home,” said Assemblymember Rudy Salas in a media release. “For years, dispatchers have been misclassified under titles that do not reflect the importance of the life-saving work they perform every day. As wildfires ravage our state, the work of dispatchers coordinating our emergency response has never been more critical.”

The idea for this bill was originally brought to Salas by a local dispatcher from Kings County, Maribel Stinson, who emailed him directly suggesting the potential legislation.

Stinson said via email Friday that she reached out to Salas after she heard the state of Texas had passed a bill to classify dispatchers as first responders, and I thought it would be a good idea for California to follow. She said Salas and his team immediately began working on the bill and she is thankful to them for their help.

“Dispatchers in California will finally get the recognition that they justly deserve,” Stinson said. “Dispatchers are first responders because they are the first voice that a distress caller hears when they dial 911, and I am hopeful that now that AB 1945 has passed, agencies across California will have an easier time recruiting candidates that want to be dispatchers.”

Salas thanked the governor for signing the bill and said he hopes other states will join the movement to properly reclassify their dispatchers.

“Our country depends on the incredible work of our emergency dispatchers who are the first to respond during a crisis and the last voice we hear on the phone,” he said.

Currently, the Federal government describes dispatchers as an “administrative” or “clerical” occupation, which does not accurately describe the work of dispatchers who undergo extensive training and whose work can mean the difference between life and death.

California dispatchers answer approximately 27 million 911 calls per year and play a vital role in the state’s emergency response chain, which extends far beyond dispatching calls for peace officers and firefighters.

Dispatchers are often responsible for being the first to respond during life-threatening accidents, wildfires, active shooter situations and potential suicides.

“Although the job of a dispatcher is fast paced and very stressful at times, it is also a very rewarding job if you like helping others,” Stinson said.

Lee Ann Magoski, ENP, president of the California Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association (CALNENA), said on behalf of the over 8,000 911 emergency dispatchers across the state of California that she is thrilled AB 1945 was signed into law.

“For too long, the women and men of 911 have gone unrecognized as the first of the first responders, answering the call for help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Magoski said in a released statement. “We thank Assemblymember Salas for his work on AB 1945, and hope that other states and Congress will follow in California’s footsteps so that dispatchers throughout the country may receive the recognition and care that they deserve.”


©2020 The Hanford Sentinel, Calif.

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