ASPEN, Colo. — On average, 911 dispatchers in Pitkin County take about 1,200 calls a month. Many of those emergencies require life-saving skills before the first responders even arrive, according to Dispatch Commander Brett Loeb.
“We’re often called the first, first responder,” he said.
Across the country, dispatcher jobs are defined as administrative, not life-saving.
There’s a bill in Congress called the 911 Safety Act that would reclassify dispatchers as first responders. The effort has been slow moving, though, prompting some communities to move forward with the classification on their own. Pitkin County is now one of those places.
Given the lifesaving steps they take every day, 911 dispatchers in Pitkin County are the first in Colorado and among a few nationwide to be classified as first responders, putting them alongside firefighters, police and paramedics.
“We’re just as critical as any of those for passing along information and helping people over the phone," Loeb said. “We go through extensive training to help people over the phone with medical conditions, from bleeding control, to child birth, to choking and CPR.”
Arapahoe County is also redefining their dispatchers as first responders and the entire state of Texas voted to do the same thing over the summer.
In some places, the designation effects benefits and pay but in Colorado, Loeb said the change is more about respect for a job that answers the call when lives are on the line.
"Here in Colorado we’re lucky to already receive many of those benefits already,” said Loeb. “For us it’s just the recognition and the respect.”
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