‘It needs to happen’; Indiana bill would classify 911 dispatchers as first responders

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VIGO CO., Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — According to Vigo county 911 director Vickie Oster, when there’s an emergency her dispatchers are on the front lines.

“We provide pre-arrival instructions for medical issues. We stay on the phone with people while somebody is breaking in their house until police get out there,” Oster said.

Although dispatchers are the first to respond, they are not considered first responders.

Dispatch is considered a clerical job, but a bill that passed through the Statehouse, now waiting for Governor Eric Holcomb’s signature, could change that.

“We have all of the same traumatic instances as the police and fire or EMS. That bill is trying to make us where we have the same medical or health benefits as a first responder. And with our training in this job to get us classified so we can have better pay,” said Oster.

Dispatcher Kristin Merritt said she hopes to see this bill become a state law.

“You won’t get help unless you go through us. And that’s what a first responder is, the first person you come in contact with. So it needs to happen,” she said.

Oster said having this recognition would also give the community a better understanding of the role dispatchers play.

“Even though we’re not out there on the scene physically where someone can see us, we’re still there and it’s still in our mind and we still live through that same trauma that first responders do,” she said.

There’s also a national version of this bill called the 911 Saves Act in Washington D.C.

It was last acted on in March 2019.

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