Reclassifying the public safety telecommunicator to the same category as other first responders has been nothing but an uphill battle for our industry. Leading the fight is APCO, who has tried multiple times to bring it up to such standard.
Getting up, getting ready, and going to work is the typical routine for those heading into the office, the daily grind. In our industry, the men and women we work for are getting up, getting ready and possibly kissing their families goodbye for the last time. These fine men and women are the first responders that are not only responsible for saving the lives of the citizens they work for, but are also in charge of having each others’ back when things hit the fan. We as public safety telecommunicators, get up, get ready, kiss our families goodbye, and will most likely see them when we get home. We might not be talking to the reporting party face to face, but we are the calm voice that initially gets the call started and help on the way.
We log onto our computers daily, put on that headset, and take the calls of the citizen’s worst day. While this is a job that we applied for and ultimately find it enjoyable in one way or another, we are classified as a clerical worker. There is nothing wrong with the clerical industry, but the stress and situations that we are constantly working, ages us much faster! Reclassifying the dispatcher to a first responder status would reap benefits. We could be on a better retirement plan, have access to better resources for counseling, and ultimately would be paid more.
Being ready to take the next incoming call while finishing up the last tragedy of a citizens’ day can take its toll on the strongest of individuals. When picking up the phone to call the local authorities, the citizen is talking to the unrecognized individuals who wear invisible capes. Public safety telecommunicators are the unseen heroes that get help to those who need it and yet are classified in the same category as an office secretary like the hard-working individuals you see at the local insurance company. While there is absolutely no shame in routine clerical work, it doesn’t compare to the traumatic events that those answering the phone in the law enforcement world have to face. Telecommunications in the public safety world is only evolving and becoming more and more stressful to the employee living in that world. Reclassifying the telecommunicator to be in the same league as a first responder, would acknowledge the fact that telecommunicators are dealing with the same stress level as those responding to the scene. We need to get this reclassification going again, to show that we are all in this together on all levels!