Right now, first responders are classified as fire departments and districts, law enforcement agencies and officials, emergency medical responders and emergency management officials. That could soon change. A local State Senator wants to have the definition expanded to include emergency dispatchers.

Senator Neil Anderson, a Republican representing Moline, filed Senate Bill 3127 in January, which would “amend various laws to include emergency medical dispatchers in references to first responders.” Those amendments would give them representation on committees, as well as more training.

Essentially, putting them in the same classification as police, firefighters and medics.

“Dispatchers pick up the phone when people experience the worst moments of their lives,” said Rep. Dan Swanson, who is leading the bill in State House of Representatives. “They are literally the first responders to trauma, and we should support them in recovering from the life-altering trauma they shoulder as part of their important public service.”

Anderson was a first responder himself. Upon graduating college, he became a volunteer fireman, before going on to get his paramedic license and joining the Moline Fire Department in 2006. He served in that role for several years.

“As a fireman I not only understand the stress dispatchers go through, but we rely on them a lot during emergency calls for support and vital information,” said Sen. Anderson. “This bill is a commonsense proposal and something I have been working on for several years now.”

The bill passed through Senate Licensed Activities Committee and is headed to the senate for a vote. If it passes there, it will go to the State House of Representatives, where Rep. Swanson will take over.