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Proposed bill seeks to recognize 911 dispatchers as emergency responders

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Glenna Oliver, a public safety dispatch supervisor in Chino with 26 years of experience, has become a vital figure in emergency response. Despite being the first point of contact in critical situations, 911 dispatchers like Oliver are not officially classified as first responders by the Office of Management and Budget.

Representative Norma Torres, a former dispatcher herself, is advocating for a change through her reintroduced bill, the 911 Supporting Accurate Views of Emergency Services (SAVES) Act.

Torres emphasizes the importance of properly classifying 911 dispatchers to ensure they receive the necessary funding for training and skills improvement. During a news conference, she shared a personal experience of a life-altering 911 call that motivated her to be a “voice of those voiceless victims.”

The proposed legislation, co-sponsored by Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, aims to direct the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to update the classification of 911 dispatchers as a protective service within the Standard Occupational Classification catalog. This change would align them with other frontline safety occupations like police and firefighters. The bill has garnered support from various organizations, including the National Emergency Number Association and the International Association of Fire Fighters.

While Torres assures that the reclassification won’t incur additional costs for taxpayers, Spectrum News sought comment from the Office for a response, which is currently pending legislation.

In Chino, Oliver’s department is recognized as first responders, enjoying associated benefits. However, for many dispatchers nationwide, this recognition is lacking. Oliver explains that being included in the protective service classification could be life-changing, offering protection for presumptive illnesses or injuries on the job, particularly addressing PTSD—a significant concern for dispatchers.

The potential reclassification could also spur much-needed studies into the mental health challenges and suicides among dispatchers. Oliver believes that integrating dispatchers with other first responders can be a crucial step in addressing this issue and ultimately saving lives.

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