911 SAVES Act to reclassify 911 dispatchers as first responders

The 911 SAVES Act would update OMB’s 911 dispatcher classification to reflect the role in directing emergency response and providing lifesaving emergency medical instruction, increasing training, funding and occupation protection.


July 18, 2019. The House passed the measure, and the 911 SAVES Act moves onto the Senate. We’ll continue to update as the bill makes its way through the legislative process.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representatives Norma J. Torres (CA-35), the only former 911 dispatcher serving in Congress, and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), a former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent and federal prosecutor, introduced H.R. 1629, the bipartisan 911 Supporting Accurate Views of Emergency Services (SAVES) Act to reclassify 911 call-takers and dispatchers from “Office and Administrative Support Occupations” to “Protective Service Occupations” in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) catalog.

The current classification reflects an outdated, misinformed view of the nation’s 100,000 public safety telecommunicators. The 911 SAVES Act is the first bill of its kind to give 9-1-1 dispatchers the recognition they deserve for the work they do every day to protect and save the lives of the public and first responders.

After more than 17 years as a 9-1-1 dispatcher, I know firsthand the challenges our public safety dispatchers face, the stress they are put under, and the critical importance of their work. Without dispatchers, law enforcement, firefighters and EMTs wouldn’t be able to do their jobs,” said Congresswoman Torres.

“The 911 SAVES Act recognizes the significance of these roles and ensures all classification standards put public safety first. I’m proud to work with Congressman Fitzpatrick to finally give 9-1-1 dispatchers their due — making us all safer in the long run,” she added.

“As a former FBI Agent, I know the work done by our 9-1-1 operators and dispatchers is critical for the safety of our community. When we are in danger, we call 9-1-1 and rely on those on the other end of the line to make sure we get the help we need,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “This legislation will give our 9-1-1 operators and dispatchers the resources, benefits, and recognition they deserve.”

Specifically, the 911 SAVES Act would direct OMB to update their classification for public safety telecommunicators as a protective service within the SOC catalog. Federal agencies rely on the SOC, a vast catalog of occupations, for statistical purposes. Including public safety telecommunicators in the protective service group would make the SOC a more accurate and useful resource, and would better align the SOC with related classification systems.

The bill has been endorsed by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International, the NENA: The 9-1-1 Association, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel also applauds all efforts to get 9-1-1 operators the designation they deserve.

APCO Executive Director and CEO Derek K. Poarch said, “The work performed by Public Safety Telecommunicators is nothing short of extraordinary, and it is 100 percent ‘protective.’ Passage of the 9-1-1 SAVES Act will be a win for public safety, and APCO’s going to do everything it can to help make sure that happens.”

NENA President Jamison Peevyhouse said, “We applaud Rep. Torres, a longtime supporter of the 9-1-1 community, and Rep. Fitzpatrick for their leadership on this issue. NENA and its members have long advocated for an accurate statistical classification for 9-1-1 professionals to support critical research into the mental and physical impacts of 9-1-1 jobs. We urge all members of Congress to support this non-partisan, cost-free measure that reflects the respect and support the American public has for its 9-1-1 professionals, who answer more than 240 million calls for help every year.”

“Dispatchers play an essential role in saving lives and in helping me do my job safely. They are our eyes and ears before we arrive on scene. They receive advanced training to effectively assess a situation, ask the right questions, and communicate vital information so that we know what to expect when we get to the scene of an emergency,” said Lindsay Washington, an Emergency Medical Technician and local president of EMS Workers United/AFSCME District Council 20. “911 dispatchers deserve the benefits and respect a first responder classification affords.”

“In my time at the Federal Communications Commission, I have had the privilege of visiting dozens of public safety answering points, including the one where Congresswoman Torres once worked as a 911 operator,” said Commissioner Rosenworcel. “911 operators are public safety heroes. They save lives every day. It’s time they are given the government classification they deserve. Kudos to Representatives Torres and Fitzpatrick for their efforts to make this happen.”

Torres and Fitzpatrick were joined in introducing the bill by original co-sponsors Representatives Donna Shalala (FL-27), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Pete Stauber (MN-8), Mark Meadows (NC-11), and Susan Wild (PA-7).

Torres is a member of the House Appropriations and Rules Committee. Prior to her time in Congress, she spent more than 17 years working as a 9-1-1 dispatcher. Torres is a member of the Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus and has introduced the Next Generation (NG) 9-1-1 Act of 2017 to strengthen federal efforts to help state and local governments to transition to NG911 technology by providing new federal funding, technical assistance and training, while ensuring 911 is kept under state and local control.

She has long led calls to ensure 9-1-1 professionals receive the recognition and respect they deserve for their lifesaving work.

Congressman Fitzpatrick spent 14 years as an FBI Supervisory Special Agent fighting political corruption and supporting global counterterrorism efforts – including being embedded with U.S. Special Forces as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is a Certified Public Accountant, Emergency Medical Technician, and served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney focused on drug crimes.

Review the announcement on Torres’ website.

Access APCO’s 911 SAVES Act write your Rep campaign on APCOIntl.org.

Andrea Fox is Editor of Gov1.com and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.