Recognition And Reclassification

Ty Wooten

Ty Wooten

Blast From The Past
Download PDF

For the last 11 years, I have been an advocate for the reclassification of 911 professionals, which aims to recognize the advanced role of Emergency Dispatchers today, both professionally and personally. This includes updating 911 professionals’ job descriptions and training requirements, supporting government legislation, and ultimately recognizing the value of 911 professionals’ impact on the community they serve.

Recognition as the “first, first responder” was considered an emerging concept in 1992, when Dr. Jeff Clawson first addressed this in his article “National Recognition for EMDs.” Today the critical role of the Emergency Dispatcher is accepted as an essential, evolving, integrated effort: providing standardized critical instructions; coordinating an informed, appropriate response; and contributing to patient outcome as the initial link in the patient’s Chain of Survival.

In some sense, not much has changed. These components in emergency dispatch were realized more than 30 years ago and are expected today; yet, still, they can only hope to be nationally recognized tomorrow.

Public perception is vital, especially in a system that requires the public to trust enough to call for help. Yet most people are shocked to learn that many states still have no regulations requiring the training of 911 Emergency Dispatchers and that adherence to proven protocols is nearly completely voluntary.

Thirty years ago, the initial focus was on persuading emergency communication centers to adopt the standardized Medical Protocol. As stated in Dr. Clawson’s article, at that time the percentage of American dispatch centers who provided PAIs from scripted, medically approved protocols was less than 5%.

At present, that percentage has risen to 47%, which illustrates the demands for consistency in a world where protocols are valued in both emergency communications and everyday life. Whether it is a pilot flying a commercial aircraft or a 911 Emergency Dispatcher, the public trusts and expects highly trained professionals to be using all the tools available to them, especially when lives are on the line.

Today’s protocol represents the advancement of a far more complex and complete system than what was offered in the early stages of EMD, and they continue to evolve. Public Safety Emergency Dispatchers now have access to fire and police protocols, along with added capabilities and technologies (ProQA® software, GPS, CAD, NG911 technologies like text-to-911, video, etc.).

Over three decades later, the responsibility and knowledge placed in the hands of the 911 professional have increased with the evolution of the modern world, but the recognition has lagged dramatically.

As Dr. Clawson understood then, the Emergency Dispatcher is a powerful link in providing critical care. We must continue to strive to broaden the understanding of an Emergency Dispatcher’s evolving role and recognize and fund it today.