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APCO Extremely Disappointed, Remains Committed to Seeing Public Safety Telecommunicators Properly Classified as a 'Protective' Occupation

Date: 2016-07-23
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The President’s Office of Management and Budget wants to continue to designate Public Safety Telecommunicators as “Office and Administrative Support Occupations”

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on July 22, 2016 announced its Standard Occupational Classification Policy Committee’s (SOCPC) recommendations for revising the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), under which Public Safety Telecommunicators would continue to be inappropriately designated as “Office and Administrative Support Occupations.”  These preliminary recommendations go against comments from the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International (APCO), the public, and the Congressional Next Gen 9-1-1 Caucus Co-Chairs advocating that Public Safety Telecommunicators be categorized as a “Protective Service Occupation.” APCO – the world’s largest association of public safety communications professionals – strongly disagrees with this designation and will urge correction from OMB.

The SOC is one of several classification systems established by OMB to ensure coordination of federal statistical activities.  In its current version, 9-1-1 professionals are identified as “Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers” and classified as “Office and Administrative Support Occupations.”  In 2014, OMB initiated a revision for the 2018 SOC.  The SOCPC was established, consisting of representatives from nine federal agencies, to review public comments and make recommendations to OMB.  Comments from APCO, members of the public, and the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Next Gen 9-1-1 Caucus Co-Chairs advocated for identifying 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers as “Public Safety Telecommunicators” and categorizing them as a “Protective Service Occupation,” the same category as police officers, firefighters, lifeguards, and a variety of other occupations.  OMB is seeking public comment on the SOCPC’s contrary recommendations before adopting a final structure for the revised SOC.  Comments are due September 20.

Public Safety Telecommunicators perform many critical functions during emergency response, including coaching 9-1-1 callers through life-saving first aid, evaluating reports of suspicious activity, and coordinating communications for high-stakes events such as active shooter incidents.  Categorizing professional telecommunicators as “Administrative Support” belies the stress, skill, and life-or-death nature of the job.  Further, the term “Public Safety Telecommunicator” more effectively captures the jobs that fall under this designation than the SOC’s current label, “Dispatcher.”

In an earlier release issued on June 23rd, APCO had reported that, the Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus Co-Chairs – Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) – sent a bipartisan letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) urging OMB to revise the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) to accurately represent the complex and life-saving nature of the work performed by 9-1-1 professionals.

Advocating revisions that align with APCO’s recommendations, the Co-Chairs’ letter pointed out that a public safety telecommunicator’s job “can entail simultaneously questioning the caller, dispatching first responders, and using advanced technologies to retrieve caller location, medical information, and pertinent location history,” and that the “current classification within the ‘Office and Administrative Support’ major group is not consistent with the specialized training and life-saving nature of the tasks performed by public safety telecommunicators.”

Sadly, the recommendations did not sway the SOCPC, which issued its recommendations on July 22nd. 

“I am extremely disappointed that the Policy Committee failed to address the inaccurate classification of Public Safety Telecommunicators in the SOC,” APCO President Brent Lee said.  “Maintaining the status quo for the SOC – leaving public safety communications professionals out of the Protective category – is unacceptable.  APCO will use every available resource to ensure that this is rectified and Public Safety Telecommunicators receive the recognition they deserve.”

For more information about APCO, see: www.apcointl.org

- People, Places & Things/9-1-1magazine.com (via APCO, 7/22/16)

Images: 9-1-1 magazine photo file (top-to-bottom: Washinton Metro PD Dispatcher; Chicago Police 9-1-1 Dispatcher; San Jose Fire Dept Dispatcher)

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