January 26, 2024
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME) has joined bipartisan legislation to reclassify 9-1-1 dispatchers, who are often the first point of contact during emergencies, as first responders. The Enhancing First Response Act would direct the Office of Management and Budget to reclassify dispatchers as first responders, when it comes to how federal agencies set salaries and establish training programs. Currently the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System — a statistical standard, established by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — lists dispatchers as administrative or clerical workers, which can limit career advancement opportunities.
“During the Lewiston mass shooting last year, and throughout the last several major winter storms, Maine emergency dispatchers provided critical, life-saving work connecting victims with the appropriate first responders. We are forever indebted to their service to our community,” said Senator King. “The Enhancing First Response Act would reclassify dispatchers as first responders in the government’s operations to ensure they have the necessary training and resources to continue providing this critical service. Thank you to all the dispatchers in Maine and across the country for your responsivity, compassion and commitment to keeping our communities safe.”
Additionally, this bill would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue a report after an activation of the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) lasting at least seven days. This system allows communication companies to share information on outages and request assistance. These reports provide data the FCC uses to asses communications reliability during disaster and, under the Enhancing First Response Act, would direct the FCC to hold at least one public hearing in affected areas and produce a final report.
Senator King has been a longstanding supporter of first responders and is a champion of improving telecommunications in rural communities. Last year, he cosponsored bipartisan legislation, the Connect Our Park Act, which would direct each National Park to assess where broadband service is needed and develop plans to increase service access for first responders and employees alike. He, along with the Maine delegation, recently co-sponsored the infrastructure law to provide more than $30 million to support universal broadband access in Maine. Previously, King cosponsored the Broadband Reform and Investment to Drive Growth in the Economy Act to deploy affordable broadband networks nationwide. He also previously joined other Senators in encouraging the FCC to administer the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP) to address the longstanding digital divide.
The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).