Kansas looking to classify some jobs as first responders

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KANSAS — The list of first responders could soon be growing in the state of Kansas.

It involves people who are already involved in the emergency response process. 911 dispatchers are the ones working on joining the ranks of first responders. Right now a bill is being drafted to face Kansas lawmakers to enter this classification, and potentially establish a new platform for these workers.

Marti Shields, Parsons Police Communication Director/Dispatcher, said, “Dispatchers are first responders for first responders.”

Dispatchers are huge players when it comes to emergency response in their community.

“Our department took in 46,000 calls last year, and usually we only have one dispatcher on duty at a time.”

Despite this, they’re not recognized by the state of Kansas as first responders. This isn’t a commonly known fact.

Brandy Grassl, Labette County Emergency Communications 911 Director, said, “Most people didn’t realize and even professionals with emergency services, 911 dispatchers are not recognized as first responders, and it really came up with COVID last year.”

“When the vaccine and stuff came out, they were trying to figure out if we were going to be classified as a first responder or just classified as a clerical worker,” said Shields

Deciding to do something about it, members like Brandy Grassl of the Kansas Association of Public Safety Communication Officials, wanted to change this.

“APCO and NENA partnered together and we’re trying to push some legislation through to have 911 dispatchers recognized as first responders by statute,” said Grassl

It’s even gained support from one Kansas senator who’s helping draft the bill.

“Senator Francisco has been one of our champions, she sits on our 911 coordinating council, she’s going to be spearheading for us and be helping us out.”

As they wait for the bill to be introduced, they’re working to show communities and agencies are standing behind them.

“The biggest support is make sure that your administration knows about it, that your commissioners know about it, that your mayor knows about it, and that we’re getting out there and letting senators and representatives know that its coming their way, that they’re gonna see it and we support it.”

Letters from around the state have already been sent-in that support the proposition. This includes places like Shawnee County, Douglas County, and Labette is currently working on one as well. To get involved it’s recommended you email your APCO representative.

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