Who's the first person who responds when you call 911 with an emergency? Dispatchers, also known as Emergency Telecommunications, are the first, first responders, but don't get the recognition or support they deserve. SEIU Local 888 is spearheading a campaign to get dispatchers classified as first responders in Massachusetts.
The campaign made an important step when Boston Mayor Michelle Wu signed an executive order recognizing 911 dispatchers as "Public Safety/First Responders". See the livestream. The change will bring needed resources and benefits in line with other first responders to mitigate against burnout, high turnover, under-staffing and high levels of PTSD. It's time for the state of Massachusetts to do the same.
Flanked by members of SEIU 888 at the announcement, Wu officially signed the order. It read, in part, that: “the City of Boston seeks to confer upon Boston Police Department Operations Division civilian employees recognition, dignity, and respect for their devotion to an exceptionally difficult and demanding profession."
“This move by Mayor Wu is a huge step forward in securing the long-overdue recognition and benefits that these committed first responders deserve,” said, SEIU 888 President Tom McKeever, who stood beside Wu as she signed the order. “They help ensure public safety, respond to natural disasters, and get residents the medical help they need. These are high-stakes, high-stress jobs that must be acknowledge as such.”
The order was signed as part of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week and on the eve of the 10-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. The Mayor’s order noted that “the City of Boston understands that the designation of Operations Division civilian employees as public safety employees requires a change in state law to become effective but believes that this is nonetheless an important step for the City of Boston to take at the municipal level.” SEIU 888 has long advocated for changes in state law the would official designate 911 dispatchers as first responders.
The bills that SEIU 888 is advocating for passage 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.
“We look forward to working with our elected officials at the State House, all of whom have 911 dispatchers living and working in the communities they represent, to pass these critical pieces of legislation,” added McKeever.