Congresswoman Disagrees with Classification of 911 Dispatcher

Rep. Norma J. Torres (D., Calif.) wrote the Office of Management and Budget today to object to its classification of 911 dispatchers as an “Office and Administrative Support Occupation” in the draft Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), and she urged OMB to classify the position as a “Protective Service Occupation.”

“I know firsthand that public safety telecommunicators are not just support staff, but are integral members of first responder teams who do far more than answer a phone and send help,” the congresswoman wrote. “During critical incidents such as large fires, civil unrest, or weather related incidents, telecommunicators are mobilized just like police and fire personnel. My fellow dispatchers also work in life-or-death situations, often talking to callers in their greatest hour of need. As a former dispatcher I know firsthand that on any given day, they may take a call from an individual on the brink of committing suicide or must gather key information if a crime is in progress to be later be used in court. In fact, conversations between dispatchers and suspects are often Miranda exempt, and testimony from dispatchers can serve as critical evidence in court proceedings.”

“It is clear that our dispatchers do not simply provide administrative support but are an important part of the first responder community,” the letter added. “This is a specialized occupation that requires professionals to think critically and use skills and training that are vital to the lifesaving efforts of first responders. I sincerely hope OMB will take these factors into account as it adopts its revised SOC and therefore urge you to categorize public safety telecommunicators appropriately as a ‘Protective Service Occupation.’”

“We very much appreciate the support of Rep. Torres, especially given her background as a former 9-1-1 professional herself,” said Derek Poarch, chief executive officer and executive director of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International. “Her advocacy is a major boost to the efforts of APCO members who are fighting to achieve the recognition they deserve for protecting and saving lives every day.” – Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com