As most of you know, the May 7th deadline to gather 100,000 e-signatures for the White House petition is quickly approaching and we barely halfway to our goal of 100,000 signatures. I have to wonder how we could have 5,874 PSAPs in the United States (according to NENA, as of 2017) and over 100,000 dispatchers working (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2014) yet we can’t gather 100,000 signatures on a petition that tells the White House that we, as emergency service dispatchers and 911 call takers, should be classified as a first responder position rather than a clerical position. Our industry has come so far from when we were just the glorified secretary for the agencies we served, we are public safety professionals in our own right, so why can’t we throw our support behind a movement that is seeking that recognition?
I ask that you think about what a reclassification would mean to you and, if you support it, explain that to your friends and family and ask them to sign the petition. A reclassification, to me, means the start of a shift in perception for what we do. Day in and day out, hour after hour, weekends, holidays, every day my team in dispatch is available to help shoulder the burden of the worst day of somebody’s life. They are ready to offer help, emotional support, a calm, professional voice while getting this person the help that they need. Then they stand by ready to help the helpers. The questions we ask are key to their success and safety – both in the investigatory phase and the prosecutorial phase.
If we are successful in our reclassification efforts does that mean that we will immediately get the pay and acknowledgement we deserve for the stressful role we play in our communities? No, it does not. But does it mean that there is a shift in the conversation that sets the foundation for these changes to be made? Absolutely, in my opinion it does. How can we ask the powers that be in our local jurisdictions to provide the pay and benefits that we deserve as part of the first responder community if we can’t even get behind a movement for us to be classified that way? How do we expect to recruit and retain public safety professionals that are expected to operate with increased expectations and pressures without compensating them justly for it? This job is not getting easier. We are in the midst of the greatest change to 911 services since its implementation and part of what needs to change is how we are classified.
I’ll step down off of my soap box now and simply ask that, if you haven’t already, go and sign the petition. It is easy and quick – and I’ll tell you from my personal experience, putting your valid email address on the petition so they can confirm that you are real does not expose you to scam emails (I signed several weeks ago and haven’t seen anything of the sort). Then please share the petition with your friends, family, public safety partners, and your community and ask them to take the time to support the valuable role you play and to sign the petition that will set the stage for this career to be recognized and classified appropriately. Even if present day you doesn’t understand it, I’m confident that future you will be thankful for the reclassification and the benefits it will bring.
Both the Kansas Chapter of APCO page and the APCO International page on Facebook have graphics and the link to share this petition (please go and like both pages if you haven’t yet) to help you share your story with your network of people. I also have a sample letter provided by APCO International to send out to friends and family requesting their support and if you would like that sent to you then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And finally, the website to sign the petition is https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/9-1-1-professionals-should-be-recognized-protecting-and-saving-lives.
2017 Kanas APCO President