A house bill signed by the Governor Greg Abbott on Monday now classifies emergency dispatch operators as first responders.
“It gives us some further protection, in the event of taking these traumatic calls throughout the years, later in life we have traumatic experiences from this, then we’d be eligible for some care,” said Melissa Orosco, the communications coordinator of LPD dispatch.
A first responder is someone who has to make quick decisions, similar to firefighters, law enforcement officers and EMS.
“There’s a few things that first responders are protected against, some kind of lawsuits and right to sue,” Orosco said. “[There are] protections that law enforcement get that we’ve never had the option to get.”
Orosco said the title of first responder opens doors for dispatchers to receive grants for training and improves recruitment chances.
“We could be affected by a phone call and it could really wreck our lives and workers comp wouldn’t cover that for us, but now it will,” Orosco said.
According to the dispatchers, it will hopefully allow them to get treatment for PTSD symptoms.
Orosco says most importantly it gives them the recognition they deserve, since they deal with life or death situations and are subject to just as much trauma as first responders out in the field.
“You never know what’s going to hit you, what kind of call you take,” Orosco said. “We’re taking emergency calls, we talk to people at their worst.”