Marking National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, SEIU 888 has launched a social media advocacy campaign to raise awareness of issues impacting 911 dispatchers across the U.S., including Massachusetts.
Despite playing a critical role as the “First Line” in the emergency response process, 911 dispatchers in Massachusetts are classified as clerical workers. This means they do not have access to the same resources and benefits as other first responders, leading to a high rate of burnout, turnover, and understaffing. About 1 in 4 dispatchers show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), similar to that of police officers. Moreover, a 911 dispatcher is in the top 10% of "high-turnover" professions, comparable to EMT and paramedic turnover.
“We hear consistently from our members working as dispatchers that they are overworked and underappreciated; it’s time to change that,” said SEIU 888 President Tom McKeever. “These people are the front line in ensuring the safety of our community, and they’ve committed their lives to public service. That commitment and sacrifice needs to be recognized.”
SEIU 888 is partnering with social media influencer “Sock Puppet Master” (www.sockpuppetmaster.com) to drive support of legislation that helps address the hardships of dispatchers and potentially avoid public safety issues. Sock Puppet Master, known for creating short cartoons from funny 911 calls, will raise awareness of the initiative through posts on her social media platforms, YouTube, InstaGram and TikTok, where she has a cumulative following of over 1 million people.
The bills that SEIU 888 is advocating for passage of include:
- H.2665/S.1730 - An Act relative to Massachusetts certified emergency telecommunicators: This bill seeks to include certified emergency telecommunicators in Group 2 of the contributory retirement system for public employees.
- H.2667/S.1586 - An Act to provide public safety telecommunicators with the same internal benefits as first responders: If passed, this legislation would ensure that dispatchers receive proper and fair benefits, training and support.
- HD.3403/S.1673 - An Act relative to 911 emergency communicators: This bill would ensure the dispatchers could receive care for impairment due to heart disease or hypertension caused by job-related stress.
The first campaign video, including instructions on how you can help, can be seen here: https://www.sockpuppetmaster.com/video-support-911
“In advocating for the needs of our members, we continually seek new and innovative ways to make our message heard,” said McKeever. “We hope that this campaign illustrates to a broader audience the issues faced by 911 dispatchers and that more people join us in advocating on their behalf.”