November 13, 2023
Remember when you were young and time seemed to move so slowly? The school year lasted forever, and summer seemed to take eons to arrive. Most of us can attest to feeling like time is flying by as we’ve gotten older.
Don’t let time pass you by, particularly for making your contribution to reclassification efforts. After all, classification is only reviewed every 10 years so this is your shot, your opportunity to bring about lasting change.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has not officially stated when the next Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) revision will occur, although indications are that the next SOC will be 2028.
Even though that sounds like a long way off, you don’t have five years to contemplate action. SOC classification is a multi-year process that depends on the data the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) collects. If they follow past practices, the OMB is likely to publish an initial Federal Register notice soliciting public comment in late 2023 or early 2024. Public comment—if the 2018 schedule holds true—is expected to lead to publication of the proposed revision for public comment through a second Federal Register notice in 2025. Publication of the final 2024 SOC structure would follow in spring 2024.
You want there to be enough data collected to show why the OMB should reclassify emergency dispatchers. Otherwise, it will be years before you get another shot. Classifications are reviewed every 10 years, and in 2017—despite the efforts of 911 advocates and professionals—the BLS and OMB were not convinced that the change was necessary due to a lack of objective, measurable data the offices reviewed.
In Standard Occupational Classification Policy Committee (SOCPC) jargon:
The SOCPC did not accept these recommendations based on Classification Principle 2, which states that workers are coded according to the work performed. The work performed is that of a dispatcher, not a first responder. Most dispatchers are precluded from administering actual care, "talking" someone through procedures, or providing advice. Moving the occupation to the Protective Services major group is not appropriate and separating them from the other dispatchers would be confusing. Also, dispatchers are often located in a separate area from first responders and have a different supervisory chain. The SOCPC proposes adding Public Safety Dispatcher as an illustrative example in place of Police Radio Dispatcher.1
We all know that’s a quicksand of misconception. Contrary to the SOCPC decision, a vast majority talk someone through actual procedures day in and day out over the course of their career.
Workers in the existing “Office and Administrative Support” classification “prepare and organize documents, track products, and provide information to the public.” The requested reclassification to “Protective Service Occupation” includes workers who provide public safety. According to requirements associated with the occupation, protective service personnel are given extensive training to ensure they are able to identify solutions and respond quickly in various emergency situations.
It’s coming down to the wire to move your professional classification from that of a clerical classification to a classification befitting of your profession.
What to do
911.gov offers a four-part Public Safety Telecommunicator Reclassification toolkit designed to help Emergency Communication Centers (ECCs) address the changes the BLS needs to see to reclassify telecommunicators. The four steps are:
- Developing a Public Safety Telecommunicator Job Description—what the position requires (there are model job descriptions available)
- Establishing or Expanding a Public Safety Telecommunicator Training Program—and tools to meet training expectations
- The Operational Integration of Technology and Tools—software, technology, and systems applied
- Developing an Advocacy Strategy for Proper Classification—the “why” of the reclassification campaign
You can download the kit: https://www.911.gov/projects/telecommunicator-job-reclassification/
The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) is also a great place to get started: https://www.nena.org/page/reclassification
You have a lot to gain from reclassification. Make sure to talk with your agency personnel to start addressing what’s outlined in the Public Safety Telecommunicator Reclassification toolkit as soon as possible. Time really is of the essence.
1 “SOC Responses.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. United States Department of Labor. 2017; Dec. 18. https://www.bls.gov/soc/2018/soc_responses_May_2014.htm