Dispatchers get overdue recognition

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It’s about time!

Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed House Bill 1090 that states dispatchers are now considered first responders.

What does it mean to the many who are behind the scenes? In short, it means that they will be able to apply for and receive the same benefits as police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMT). Some may think this is not fair. What do dispatchers do anyway? They sit in an air-conditioned room, answer phones and talk on the radio; they don’t even get their hands dirty.

Before my newspaper career, I was a dispatcher for many years. Not only was it my past, but it was also my passion. I loved it. I walked away every day knowing that I had helped someone that day. How many people can say that? First responders – our everyday heroes!

"HB1090 closes a hole in the previous bill that previously excluded many highly trained personnel," said Sealy Police Cheif Jay Reeves. "By expanding the definition of 'First Responder,' the new bill will include many vital members of the team that work daily to make a positive difference during tragic situations."

We understand the jobs of police officers, firefighters and EMT’s but what do you know about dispatchers? Let me enlighten you some.

I have dispatched for departments that have run 3,000 calls a year to 3,000 calls a day. I have given CPR instructions over the phone to an elderly lady whose husband stopped breathing. I talked a 14-year-old girl out of committing suicide with a gun. I helped with cuts, vehicle accidents, gunshot wounds, broken bones and deaths of every age from newborn to 100 years old. I have been on the other side of the radio with 60 deputies on a foot pursuit, car chases, bank robberies, multi-alarm building fires and life-flight landings.

I was a certified Emergency Medical Dispatcher and I was proud.

No, I did not get my hands dirty out on a scene, but I did cry when a child or a first responder died. I did have a few nightmares when the calls that day were overwhelming and a little too personal.

Dispatchers are your “first” first responders. They are the lifeline to every call every time. They keep their first responders safe by getting the right information as quickly as possible and passing it on in a clear and calm tone, even though they may still be on the phone with a screaming caller.

Every call that comes in is negative, but a good dispatcher leaves their job feeling complete. Why? Because they did everything possible to help each caller during their shift to the best of their ability. In my opinion, this recognition is way overdue. Thank you to everyone that was involved in making this happen and thank you to every first responder for keeping my family safe every day.

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