The Newest First Responders – 911 Operators

Source: VCFD

Texas 911 dispatchers can now call themselves First Responders.

Lawmakers have passed a bill changing the definition of a first responder to include operator or emergency services dispatcher.

According to, although police, firefighters and EMS providers are classified as first responders — a public safety employee or volunteer whose duties include responding rapidly to an emergency — dispatchers, under the U.S. Department of Labor, have always been classified as an office and administrative support occupation.

During the 86th Legislative Session, lawmakers in Texas passed House Bill 1090, which changes the definition of a first responder to include “an emergency responder, operator or emergency services dispatcher, who provides communication support services.”

Rep. Cecil Bell Jr., R-Magnolia, said, “Emergency response operators, emergency services dispatchers, and other emergency response personnel provide critical and often life-saving services for the public and various agencies and may encounter stressful and potentially traumatic events and experiences in the course of exercising their duties.”

Bell added, “While these personnel provide essential services to the community, they are not considered first responders under applicable state law and, as a result, are not afforded the same benefits and protections under state law as those who are.”

911 dispatchers are responsible for:

  • Receiving incoming emergency calls;
  • Prioritizing calls based on the nature of an emergency;
  • Providing instructions on life-saving emergency medical interventions; and
  • Dispatching the proper emergency personnel.

They’re also responsible for helping callers remain calm enough to provide the information first responders need to understand the full scope of a situation.

Most systems require 911 dispatchers to have EMD training – Emergency Medical Dispatcher.

According to APCO International, EMD is a systematic program of handling medical calls.

Trained telecommunicators, using locally approved EMD Guidecards, quickly and properly determine the nature and priority of the call, dispatch the appropriate response, then give the caller instructions to help treat the patient until the responding EMS unit arrives. 

According to Mark Komins, EMS Director, Safety Unlimited, Inc., “Many dispatch centers are watching to see what happens with this because a dispatcher is actually the first, first responder. If they get this status, they will have better retirement, wages, and working conditions. “