New bill seeks to recognize 911 dispatchers as first responders

A new bill is seeking to recognize 911 dispatchers as first responders. 

SB 5555 has been approved by both the House and Senate and is awaiting Governor Jay Inslee’s signature. 

This is a long and awaited move by dispatchers as the bill seeks to arm them with training and certification requirements. 

NORCOM 911’s Communications Training Officer and Guild President, Nick Curry who went before lawmakers advocating for the bill says this is a great first step. 

"It'll give validation and just a little bit of recognition to folks who've been sort of behind the scenes for a time," Curry said. 

Dispatchers are the first people you speak with to help guide you through an emergency. 

Curry is one of them, he’s been taking your 911 calls for over 10 years, dispatching police, firefighters, or paramedics while taking details quickly. 

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"I come in and every day my job makes an impact in the community," Curry said. 

Sometimes he says it’s so much more than that, giving someone CPR instructions, helping deliver a child, or talking someone through life and death situations. 

"To be honest, that's both rewarding and challenging because the reward is that we actually get to help them if they'll give us just the tiniest bit of a chance we will do that," Curry said. 

Work, Curry says, takes an emotional toll.  

"We care about each individual person and every time we get a phone call, that person becomes the most important person in the world for that period of time that we're on the phone with them," he told FOX 13 News.

911 dispatchers experience some of the same trauma as first responders, but many of them don’t have the same access to resources or training, nor do they share the same title. 

That’s because the Office of Management and Budget classifies them as clerical workers. 

"That is so not accurate to the job that we do here," Curry said. "I'm working with so many different pieces of technology in high stress situations where people's lives depend on multiple people sometimes, we're having to think outside the box and use all kinds of different tools." 

Senate Bill 5555 will change that, recognizing dispatchers as first responders and arm every single one of them across the state with training to help deal with the situations every 911 caller has for them. 

"It'll benefit the whole community," Curry said. "Those dispatchers will get additional training, some of them want it so bad, and you're in a constant fight in government, right for a limited amount of money." 

Curry says the new classification will come in handy, during natural disasters, allowing dispatchers to activate their cell phones with priority calls guiding other first responders when signals have dropped. 

"There's all sorts of things that we could be doing, really, the sky's the limit," Curry said. 

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