Kan. governor signs bill designating 911 dispatchers as emergency responders
Public safety communications officials called the change "historic" and the result of "many years of hard work"
By Laura French
TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has signed a bill that designates 911 dispatchers as emergency responders.
The Kansas Emergency Management Act (Senate Bill 40), which includes a section adding public safety telecommunicators to the definition of "emergency responder" was signed into law on Wednesday, according to WIBW.
Public safety officials in the state said the change has been years in the making, with Shawnee County Emergency Communications Center Director Melanie Bergers calling Wednesday "a historic day" in state history, according to WIBW.
The designation of dispatchers as emergency responders, a classification that also includes law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMS providers in the state, was originally introduced as the 911 First Responders Act and later added as an amendment to Senate Bill 40, KVOE reported. Lyon County Emergency Communications Center Director Roxanne Van Gundy told the radio station that 911 officials had worked with lawmakers for about a year to develop the legislation.
"The last year has come with challenges, fear, and frustration for all, and 911 Public Safety Telecommunicators are no exception. While the job itself is stressful, COVID has forced many Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) to work shorthanded, change call-taking protocol, and 911 saw an influx of calls which challenged capacity," the Kansas Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and National Emergency Number Association (NENA) said in a press release after the bill was passed. "Nevertheless, after many years of hard work, and a tumultuous year of uphill battles, the Kansas Chapters of APCO and NENA believe there is reason to celebrate."