The First, First Responders

By Cora Dunnwald, News Crew Member

Two Iowa bills propose to reclassify 911 dispatchers as first responders. Dispatchers are currently classified as clerical workers under federal recognition.

Iowa Sen. Chris Cournoyer and Iowa Rep. Dean Fisher are the floor managers on this bill. Fisher, who serves on the House Public Safety Committee, feels this small change is greatly needed. “They are currently classified as clerical workers, and that’s clearly not an appropriate classification,” he said. Fisher explained that 911 dispatchers go above and beyond what should be labeled as clerical work. “It’s the simple recognition they deserve.” 

Like Fisher, Cournoyer feels this small change is necessary and well deserved. “Emergency telecommunicators often talk to people on the worst days of their lives,” she said. “They are the first, first responders.”  

Eric Dau is a 911 dispatcher that knows first hand the amount of work that goes into the job. “The stress is what makes a lot of people wash out of this job,” he said. Dau feels the recognition of dispatchers as first responders has been a long time coming. There is a lot of trauma that goes into this kind of job, and Dau thinks if these changes are made, it will allow more respect for the jobs of the dispatchers. 

The proposed bills would only change the labeling of the dispatchers, moving them from clerical work to first responders. Fisher said it will not have any impact on other aspects of the job, only the classification. Both bills have yet to pass the Iowa House and Senate before making it to the governor’s desk.

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