Take Action – 911 Dispatcher Reclassification
As most of you know, my wife (Rox) has been working in the 911 field for almost two decades. Through her, I’ve become pretty well versed in the job of the 911 dispatcher. However, last week I learned something about the actual job classification of dispatchers. Several of my dispatching friends on Facebook have been posting links with the hashtag #IAM911. I’ve dug around the vast void of the internet to find a more verbose description of what is happening and what it is all about. I come to the realization that the average citizen probably doesn’t understand the issue (no offense). If you’re in the 911 field in any capacity – you do. However, if I posted the links on Facebook and asked for support – I believe my friends wouldn’t truly understand what the core issue is. Since I’m totally awesome, I figured I’d try to break it down for those non-911 folks and in the process – try not to get anything wrong.
Let’s start with the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC). The Bureau of Labor Statistics has created an Occupational Classification for all workers. If you are employed then you fall into one of the 840 detailed occupations on this list. Other federal agencies (including FLSA) use this list.
Here is how dispatchers are classified:
43-0000 Office and Administrative Support Occupations
43-5000 Material Recording, Scheduling, Dispatching, and Distributing Workers
43-5030 Dispatchers 43-5031 Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers
Here is a list of Protective Services classifications (Officers, Fireman, Etc.):
33-0000 Protective Service Occupations
33-1011.00 First-Line Supervisors of Correctional Officers
33-1012.00 First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives
33-1021.00 First-Line Supervisors of Fire Fighting and Prevention Workers
33-1021.01 Municipal Fire Fighting and Prevention Supervisors
33-1021.02 Forest Fire Fighting and Prevention Supervisors
33-1099.00 First-Line Supervisors of Protective Service Workers, All Other
33-2011.01 Municipal Firefighters
33-2011.02 Forest Firefighters
33-2021.00 Fire Inspectors and Investigators
33-2021.01 Fire Inspectors
33-2021.02 Fire Investigators
33-2022.00 Forest Fire Inspectors and Prevention Specialists
33-3012.00 Correctional Officers and Jailers
33-3021.00 Detectives and Criminal Investigators
33-3021.01 Police Detectives
33-3021.02 Police Identification and Records Officers
33-3021.03 Criminal Investigators and Special Agents
33-3021.05 Immigration and Customs Inspectors
33-3021.06 Intelligence Analysts
33-3031.00 Fish and Game Wardens Green Occupation Green
33-3041.00 Parking Enforcement Workers
33-3051.00 Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers
33-3051.01 Police Patrol Officers
33-3051.03 Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs
33-3052.00 Transit and Railroad Police
33-9011.00 Animal Control Workers
33-9021.00 Private Detectives and Investigators
33-9031.00 Gaming Surveillance Officers and Gaming Investigators
33-9032.00 Security Guards
33-9091.00 Crossing Guards
33-9092.00 Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and Other Recreational Protective Service Workers
33-9093.00 Transportation Security Screeners
33-9099.00 Protective Service Workers, All Other
33-9099.02 Retail Loss Prevention Specialists
The first piece of information to take away from the list is that dispatchers are considered Office and Administrative Support Occupations.
In a nutshell, this post, the #IAM911 and other various social media blasts deal with what one would consider a simple task – a job reclassification for dispatchers. Now, before we tackle the why – we need to tackle the how.
ANY job reclassification that needs to happen in the SOC – goes through a 10 YEAR PROCESS! Basically, there are several steps to the process. Two of the steps include soliciting public input. The first notice for public input closed July 21, 2014. The second notice for comments and recommendations opened on July 22, 2016 and will close September 20, 2016. The SOC Policy Committee (SOCPC) will go through a few iterations and implement any changes in 2018. The next change after that will not be implemented until 2028!
Now we know the how – let’s go over the why.
The current proposal by APCO (Association of Public-Safety Communications Officers) is to move 911 Dispatchers to Public Safety Telecommunicators or workers with similar titles such as Emergency Services Telecommunications Specialists and 911 Communications Operators. I will not go into the qualifications, certifications, and specialization it takes to actively be a 911 Police Dispatcher, Fire Dispatcher, or 911 Call Taker (it would take too long). In another post, I’ll go over that list. For now, trust me when I say – continual training is a huge part of 911.
We all know what 911 dispatchers do.
They are the first contact in every emergency. A typical day could include talking a suicide caller down, tracking down a hang-up caller who is in need of emergency help, talking a child through CPR to save his brother’s life. These are just a few small examples of what these ninjas in public safety do. To me, it is obvious that 911 Dispatchers are misclassified in the SOC. They should be put under the 33-0000 Protective Service Occupations classification.
Now, this is where the rubber meets the road. In 2014, the recommendation to reclassify dispatchers was proposed on the SOC first public input process. The SOCPC did not accept the recommendation.
Here is why:
“SOCPC did not accept these recommendations based on Classification Principle 2, which states that workers are coded according to the work performed. The work performed is that of a dispatcher, not a first responder. Most dispatchers are precluded from administering actual care, “talking” someone through procedures, or providing advice. Moving the occupation to the Protective Services major group is not appropriate and separating them from the other dispatchers would be confusing. Also, dispatchers are often located in a separate area from first responders and have a different supervisory chain. The SOCPC proposes adding Public Safety Dispatcher as an illustrative example in place of Police Radio Dispatcher.”
Let me see if I can get this logic down:
- If you’re not physically at a location, then you’re not considered a first responder.
- A 911-dispatcher is on the phone with a lady who is cutting her child’s arms and legs off should be classified evenly with a tow-truck dispatcher?
- A Tactical 911-dispatcher who is working a perimeter with officers on an active shooter should be classified with a warehouse dispatcher.
- A 911 dispatcher who is interpreting a battered woman’s call for help without alerting her boyfriend that police is on the way – is right up there with a radio repair personal.
This is a crock of shit. Hence, the push to get folks educated and hopefully gain their support before the close of this input period on Sept. 20, 2016.
There is one more piece to the puzzle.
If you are a grown working adult – you should be knowledgeable of FLSA. That’s Fair Labor Standards Act. It deals with minimum wage, overtime, job classifications, etc. It affects everyone who works.
(hopefully, I don’t get this wrong)
The 33-0000 Protective Service Occupations have exemptions called the 7(k) system. This whole 7(k) system allows cities to bypass the Department of Labor overtime rule on paying out overtime when workers exceed 40 hours a week. For example, it would allow a city to create 14-day work period and only have to pay out over time if an officer works more than 86 hours during that 14 day period.
Before I muddy up the waters too much – typical agencies pay out over time to any officers or firefighters who work more than 40 hours – regardless. They just use the 7(k) for scheduling purposes.
Where this comes into play is that 911 dispatchers are non-exempt. This means they are paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week. Yet, they cannot mirror an agencies police/fire work schedule if it exceeds more than 40 hours a week by using the 7(k).
Depending on who you are – this is good or bad. My personal opinion is it would cause a lot less confusion during shift change if everyone changed shift at the same time.
That last piece of information I’ll pass off deals with health.
There have been numerous case studies of 911-dispathcers dealing with PTSD. In fact, it’s quite alarming how many cases are being diagnosed each year and rising. The sad part is most cities extend additional medical and mental health benefits to those in the Protective Services class and dispatchers are not part of that class – they are excluded. In my limited circle of friends, I personally know two who left their agencies because of PTSD.
If you made it through this long post – I applaud you.
Help me with this cause. Help Telecommunicators to get the true recognition they deserve (yes I stole that off the APCO page)
Please click the button. The link will take you to the APCO International – Take Action page.Take Action
Also, please share – I’ll be your bestest friend ever!
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I’m an avid movie buff and video game player. I see humor all around us in life and really don’t have a problem commenting on it. I am a fun and easy going dude who just likes to write from time to time.
This should apply to all police/fire and ambulance dispatchers, not just those departments that handle 911. My department gets 911 calls transferred to us, we just don’t answer 911. We still have the calls for help. It’s absolutely horrifying talking to someone whose car is disabled on the side of the interstate when a loved one gets out of said car and gets struck by a passing vehicle doing 70 mph, or a van that flips on its side and gets struck by a passing semi. I am so tired of being considered non essential. i am NOT non essential. Shit hits the fan I HAVE to be there. No one else will watch my boys backs. The legislatures sure aren’t…
Lisa, you are correct. I wasn’t trying to offend or belittle other positions that deal with emergency calls or situations. I wrote the article based on the circle of dispatchers and agencies I’ve been involved with. In these respective agencies – everyone is crossed trained and works every channel – by rotation. There isn’t a designated call-taker, fire-ems, or dispatch position that one individual works. However, I also know that not all agencies are like this. In short, I agree with you.
we worked with probation officers, local (4} and state police, Sheriff Dept and Fire 14 fire, and EMS 18 ambulances