WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representatives Norma J. Torres, the only former 911 dispatcher serving in Congress, and Brian Fitzpatrick, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Supervisory Special Agent and federal prosecutor, announced that a provision based on their bipartisan 911 Supporting Accurate Views of Emergency Services (911 SAVES) Act, passed on the House floor to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, and now moves to the U.S. Senate for further consideration.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) currently classifies 911 dispatchers as clerical workers — the same category as secretaries, office clerks and taxicab dispatchers. The legislative proposal would update this classification to appropriately reflect the important role of 911 dispatchers in directing emergency response and providing lifesaving emergency medical instruction. Specifically, it would reclassify 911 dispatchers or public safety telecommunicators from “Office and Administrative Support Occupations” to “Protective Service Occupations” in the OMB Standard Occupational Classification catalog.
For more than 17 years, I lived through the challenges and stress 911 dispatchers experience 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Dispatchers are a critical link in the public safety chain that help firefighters, EMTs, and law enforcement officers do their jobs every day,” said Torres. “I’m proud that the House took this important step forward to give the nation’s 100,000 public safety telecommunicators their due and reclassify them as the protective service occupations that they are.”
Torres is a member of the powerful House Appropriations and Rules Committees. She is a member of the Congressional NextGen 911 Caucus and has introduced the Next Generation 911 Act of 2017 to strengthen federal efforts to help state and local governments to transition to NG911 technology by providing new federal funding, technical assistance and training, while ensuring 911 is kept under state and local control. She has long led calls to ensure 911 professionals receive the recognition and respect they deserve for their lifesaving work.
Watch her brief floor speech on the call that brought her to politics and propelled this amendment:
“The House’s action on our amendment is demonstrative of the strong bipartisan support for public safety telecommunicators in Congress,” said Fitzpatrick. “As a former FBI Supervisory Special Agent, I understand the lifesaving services they provide each and every day. I look forward to continuing my work alongside Congresswoman Torres to get our 911 SAVES Act over the finish line.”
Fitzpatrick spent 14 years as an FBI Supervisory Special Agent fighting political corruption and supporting global counterterrorism efforts — including being embedded with U.S. Special Forces as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is an EMT and a Certified Public Accountant, and also served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney focused on drug crimes.
Read our previous coverage of the proposed legislation and related state actions:
Learn more about what dispatchers experience in their work: