State Senator Neil Anderson (R-Andalusia) and Representative Dan Swanson (R-Alpha) were joined Wednesday by QComm911 Deputy Director Scott Ryckeghem to announce the recent passage of Senate Bill 3127 in both the Senate and House late last week.
“I find it fitting during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, to announce after a very lengthy process, emergency medical dispatchers across our state will soon be classified as first responders, pending the Governor’s signature to sign this bill into law,” Sen. Anderson said in a Wednesday release. “As a professional firefighter in Moline, I see firsthand the upmost importance this bill would have on our dispatch community, and we should have given them this recognition long ago.”
Senate Bill 3127 started as a constituent initiative citing post-traumatic stress and other ramifications that come with the job of being a 911 dispatcher.
“This bill is really important to us,” said Deputy Director Ryckeghem. “The dispatcher is literally the first, first responder on scene of every call and becomes the eyes and ears of the responding units.
“During our shift as dispatchers, it is not uncommon to go from one end of the spectrum to the next and then back again,” he said. “You listen to the cries and screams of the family members in the background, and you keep that with you. Once the calls complete, you try and process what just happened.
“This happens every day in every communications center across the country,” Ryckeghem said. “When our shift is over, we pack our things up and go home to our families and try to keep it all together. These things weigh on dispatchers. Being designated as a first responder will open up opportunities for our dispatchers to receive additional mental health benefits, specifically addressing PTSD in a communication center.”
The bill amends various laws to include “Emergency Medical Dispatchers” in reference to first responders, giving them the same recognition as police, firefighters, and medics.
“These are essential workers that help residents and first responders through their most critical moments to help save countless lives and help people from every walk of life navigate through the most traumatic of times,” Rep. Swanson said in the release.
“There may be more to do, but today we pause and thank our telecommunications first responders and thank our colleagues in the General Assembly for their support,” he said.
The bill passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. Pending the Governor’s signature, Senate Bill 3127 would go into effect Jan. 1, 2023, after it is signed into law.