That’s one reason why Texas will soon classify 911 dispatchers and other public safety telecommunications professionals as first responders, thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott this week.
The change will not only give dispatchers a degree of recognition alongside police, fire and emergency medical services, but will also let them access benefits to help support their mental health, according to Amarillo Fire Department Capt. Jeremy Hill, who manages the Amarillo Emergency Communications Center.
“I can’t think of a more emotional response that I’ve seen than a mother calling and saying her baby is not breathing and having to calm that mother down and give CPR instructions,” said Hill, who is also a vice president of the Texas chapter of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials.
Mario Lomana, a telecommunications specialist for Amarillo, told KFDA the change would be “very beneficial” for dealing with the emotional impacts of some of the calls dispatchers receive.
“We take the brunt of the initial call that gets in,” Lomana said. “So being able to reach out to somebody in need for some of the calls that have an emotional toll on us is very beneficial. That will improve morale here for sure.”
The law will go into effect September 1.