Governor Signs Bill to Reclassify Dispatchers as First Responders

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On Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 1945, which recognizes public safety dispatchers by reclassifying them as first responders.

According to the Bill: This bill would, for purposes of the California Emergency Services Act, define “first responder” as an employee of the state or a local public agency who provides emergency response services, including a peace officer, firefighter, paramedic, emergency medical technician, public safety dispatcher, or public safety telecommunicator.

The bill would provide that the definition of first responder described above does not confer a right to, or entitlement upon, an employee or prospective employee to obtain a retirement benefit formula for an employment classification that is not included in, or is expressly excluded from, that formula, as specified. The bill would prohibit an employer from offering, or indicating an ability to offer to an employee or prospective employee a retirement benefit formula for an employment classification that is not included in, or is expressly excluded from, that formula because of the definition of “first responder.”

The bill passed out of the State Assembly in a 74-0 vote and out of the State Senate in a 39-0 vote.

“The passage of AB 1945 marks a historic victory for the thousands of California dispatchers who have fought for the status of first responder,” said Assemblymember Salas. “Our state depends on the incredible work of our emergency dispatchers who are the first to respond during a crisis and the last voice we hear on the phone. I urge the Governor to sign this important bill and provide recognition and respect to the dispatchers whose tireless work keeps our families safe.”

The idea for this bill was originally brought to Assemblymember Salas by a local dispatcher from Kings County. Currently, the Federal government classifies dispatchers as an “administrative” or “clerical” occupation. This misclassification does not accurately describe the work of dispatchers who undergo extensive training and whose work can mean the difference between life and death.

“On behalf of the California Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association (CALNENA) and over 8,000 9-1-1 emergency dispatchers across the state of California, we are thrilled that AB 1945 has successfully passed the California Legislature with overwhelming support,” said Lee Ann Magoski, ENP, President of CALNENA. “For too long, the women and men of 9-1-1 have gone unrecognized as the first of the first responders, answering the call for help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We thank Assemblymember Salas for his work on AB 1945, and encourage the Governor to sign it into law so that our members receive the recognition and care that they deserve.”

California dispatchers answer approximately 27 million 9-1-1 calls per year. Public safety dispatchers play a vital role in the state’s emergency response chain, which extends far beyond dispatching calls for peace officers and firefighters. Dispatchers are often responsible for being the first to respond during life-threatening accidents, wildfires, active shooter situations, and potential suicides.

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