WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) says she still vividly remembers speaking with a child during her days as a 9-1-1 operator.
“The only thing I could hear was thumping, really loud. Screams, horrific screams. Followed by five shots,” Torres said.
Torres says she only got the call because her department did not have enough bilingual dispatchers.
“I was still in training. I should not have been answering those calls,” Torres said.
This is one of the many reasons why Torres and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn) introduced their bill to classify 9-1-1 operators as first responders, instead of clerical workers.
“There’s legal protections that are not available for them because of that classification. There’s grants and funding that cannot flow to them because of that designation,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick and Torres hope those added protection and resources will help keep more of the 9-1-1 operators currently facing burnout on the job.
“The numbers are going down and as a citizen, the things you want when you call 9-1-1, you want them to pick up on the first ring, number one. Number two, you want them to be able to speak your language, and number three you want them to be trained to deal with your specific situation,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick says the bill would also allow for improved training.
“Having a trained workforce that’s strong enough numerically is very very important,” Fitzpatrick said.
“We can right this wrong by passing the 9-1-1 Saves Act,” Torres said.