February 22, 2024

California Recognizes Public Safety Dispatchers as First Responders

From the office of California Assemblymember Rudy Salas:

Today, Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) joined a group of public safety dispatchers from across the state for a press conference to celebrate Assembly Bill 1945 (AB 1945), which would recognize the brave work of public safety dispatchers by classifying them as first responders. Currently, the Federal government describes dispatchers as an “administrative” occupation. This classification does not accurately describe the work of dispatchers who undergo extensive training and whose work can mean the difference between life and death. The idea for this bill was brought to Assemblymember Salas by a local dispatcher from Kings County, Maribel Stinson, who emailed him directly suggesting the potential legislation.

“It is an honor to officially recognize the incredible work of our public safety dispatchers,” said Assemblymember Salas. “Dispatchers are vital to keeping our communities safe. When a hostage taker or a suicidal person calls 9-1-1, the first individual they speak with is often a dispatcher whose negotiation skills can save lives. I want to thank Ms. Stinson for contacting me with this idea. Her life-saving in the community was the start of AB 1945, which ensure that brave women and men who are working as dispatchers are properly acknowledged for their work.”

Public safety dispatchers or public safety telecommunicators play a vital role in emergency response. They routinely communicate with individuals in great distress, harm, fear, or injury, including during active shooter situations. Dispatchers are trained to coach callers through first aid, collect vital information for officers, and negotiate in a variety of hostile situations.

“I congratulate Assemblymember Rudy Salas for his introduction of important legislation that would rightfully designate 9-1-1 dispatchers as first responders,” said Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). “For too long, federal and state agencies have categorized the work of 9-1-1 professionals as administrative or clerical in nature, which is inaccurate and a disservice to the specialized, lifesaving work done by dispatchers every day.”

Assemblymember Salas was joined at today’s press conference by Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez, a principal coauthor of the bill and former EMT, as well as dispatchers from the Central Valley, Monterey County, the Bay Area, Sacramento, and Sonoma County. In addition, Allena Wiggins, President of the Northern California Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (NAPCO) and Lee Ann Magoski, President of the California National Emergency Number Association (CALNENA), attended in support of AB 1945.

There are currently over 6,000 dispatchers employed in California who responded to over 27 million 9-1-1 calls in 2018 alone. Additionally, these dispatchers responded to 28,014 emergency text messages which is up 10,000 from 2017.

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