By Niky Smith
The #IAM911 movement began as many movements do; in protest. A former 9-1-1 Public Safety Telecommunicator and current podcast host birthed this movement to encourage a change in the taxonomy of emergency dispatchers.
Public Safety Telecommunicators are currently classified as “Office and Administrative Support Occupations” under the U.S. Government’s Office of Management and Budget’s Standard Occupational Classification Policy Committee. This classification essentially suggests that 9-1-1 dispatching is more of a clerical role than a responsive or protective one.
The #IAM911 campaign is an effort to spread the message that 9-1-1 telecommunicators do far more than clerical work, and are in fact first responders too.
Ricardo Martinez II was a 9-1-1 dispatcher for almost 13 years. He now runs a highly popular podcast on Facebook titled, “Within the Trenches”. The mission of this podcast is to share, with the world, the real-life stories of what it takes to do the job of a 9-1-1 PST.
Through this online community, Ricardo saw the perfect opportunity to reach the masses and display his support for the reclassification of PSTs. He began by sharing his own story, which then inspired others to participate.
It wasn’t long before the meme-style crusade began and dispatchers from all over the nation were sharing their stories too, across all social media platforms, and all with the hashtag of #IAM911.
During an interview with 9-1-1 Magazine, Ricardo made the following statement about the movement:
“I wanted to create a movement that would raise awareness on what 9-1-1 dispatchers do on a daily basis and what they deal with during a call. My hope was to share a few stories and have dispatchers everywhere do the same. It would open the eyes and maybe spread out to the media and go viral.”
Individuals were able to share some emotional moments of their personal, and often life altering interactions with 9-1-1 callers. Like giving CPR instructions over the phone (this is one of Ricardo’s personal experiences too).
Or talking someone through their attempted suicide.
They were also able to share the bond and connection they have with their brothers and sisters out in the field and the horrific moments when they weren’t able to help.
They were even able to share intimate stories involving their own families.
Every single one of the short stories delivered a very powerful message; PSTs do more than just answer a phone.
The #IAM911 movement affects and involves the entire public safety community. Every single person in this profession is working together to send help to those who have to dial 9-1-1 and to keep our responders safe while doing so. One cannot exist without the other.
If we are a community that is constantly striving to better ourselves (as we should be) then we need to have the same standards and expectations set forth for all public safety employees.
- We can help each other out by encouraging and/or assisting agencies to adopt some sort of protocol so that the majority of 9-1-1 centers are actually giving lifesaving instructions instead of just answering the phone and sending help. This is said to be a possible reason for the remaining “clerical” classification.
- We can support local and national associations and/or chapters that offer training guidelines and continuing education courses.
- We can work more diligently in ensuring the civilian population understands the capabilities of the PST and what lifesaving advice can be given over the phone.
The buy-in, however, must start from the top.
#IAM911 is yet another valiant effort by 9-1-1 dispatchers to gain the professional designation and respect that they earned. It is time for the rest of the public safety world to join us in the belief that not only are 9-1-1 PSTs first responders, they are in fact the first, first responder.
Related article: IPSA Supports Public Safety Telecommunicators Being Properly Classified as a ‘Protective’ Occupation