Public Comments for: HB854 - Virginia Retirement System; enhanced retirement benefits for 911 dispatchers.
Last Name: Porter Locality: Spotsylvania

I feel that 911 dispatchers should be considered hazardous duty service positions which makes them first responders. They deserve our best because we need their best. Thank you.

Last Name: Jones Locality: Spotsylvania

I would like to speak on behalf of the reclassification of our 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service. These individuals play a vital role in helping our first responders to reach people in need. They are the first contact point in an emergency and not only do they dispatch fire, police, and rescue personnel to an emergency scene but they stay on the line with the person in need until help arrives. They provide first aid recommendations, they give updates on the arrival of first responders, they decipher noises in the background when needed for investigations, and they are often the soothing voice that keeps someone from doing something they may later regret. While 911 dispatchers may not physically go out on each call, they are behind the scenes in every call. Classifying their job position as hazardous duty service positions would recognize them as the first of our first and vital responders. This is a very high stress job and the burn out rate is extremely high. Recognizing them for the critical work that they do can go a long way in retaining these very valuable individuals.

Last Name: Conner Locality: Radford

Homeland Security Act of 2002 defines the term “first responder” as individuals who, in the early stage of an incident are responsible for the protection and preservation of life, property,evidence, and the environment. By this definition, who better , can be considered a first responder than a dispatcher, who is the start of everything. Lack of recognition as a first responder has real life risks. Many centers are below minimum staffing levels due to systemic retention. Failure to be classified as a first responder creates inadequacies I’m working environments, training, wages, and high risk benefits. Call taking and dispatching requires significant training to include : sound judgement, multitasking, situational awareness skills and strong public and internal relations. Specialized training adds another level of complexity to the position. Significant shortages of well trained personnel can place the agency and its employees at a high risk of liability when providing services to citizens and responders. I ask that the bill to reclassify dispatchers be supported.

Last Name: Davidson Locality: Spotsylvania

911 dispatch is vital and these operators deserve benefits

Last Name: Manning Locality: Troutville

This is a battle I feel we have continually been fighting. As a telecommunications officer we are the first first responders. We listen to the emergency and enter a call for service. We send help to those who need it and provide guidance or pre-arrival instructions to the often scared or emotional person on the other end of the phone. We do all this while continuing to obtain vital information for those who are responding physically in the field. Often we are not given any closure on these incidents and rather have to turn around and steel ourselves for the next phone call or the next emergency. We face our own health hazards caused by the stress of keeping our citizens, medics, police, and fire personnel safe. We deserve to be seen as first responders and deserve the benefits that this would entail.

Last Name: Hess Organization: Clarke County Sheriff's Office Locality: Clarke

I am asking for your support in reclassifying 911 Telecommunicators and Dispatchers so that those currently employed as well as future hires be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service. It is imperative that changes be made to the language in HB131 & HB854 that ensures that those currently employed are eligible to receive this benefit. I am the Emergency Communications Director at the Clarke County Sheriff's Office. I have worked here for 34 years in Public Safety Communications or 9-1-1 as most people refer to it. I am reaching out to you today and asking for your support in reclassifying 911 Telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service (HB131, HB854 and SB585). When I first started everything was logged using paper and pencil, directions were given from paper maps and lists of rural route numbers. We did not yet have 24 hour coverage for the Sheriff's Office and volunteers were dispatched for fire and EMS incidents with no response time requirements. There is no comparison from how it was then to what it is now. The job has gone way beyond how it started out, but our classification has never changed. Everything we do now is computer based applications. Before my staff can begin their day they have to log into 7 different computer applications, know how to use them efficiently and be able trouble shoot errors as they occur all without delaying the emergency response to the caller. In addition they are gathering patient and caller information in order to find out the chief complaint and any safety issues the boots on the ground responders may encounter and then radio dispatch units. All the while they keep the caller on the phone providing pre-arrival instructions. Saving a life by giving CPR instructions is not an everyday occurrence but it does most certainly happen. What does happen every day that is not talked about are the elderly folks who wait until they absolutely need help because they don't want to bother anyone to take them to the hospital, or they hear a noise outside and live alone so we talk to them until someone can make sure they are okay. The suicidal caller who wants to hurt themselves or they have already shot themselves but did not die like they expected. We stay on the line with those callers trying to provide them lifesaving instructions but beyond that just a voice on the line to keep them engaged and letting them know that they matter. This is not the job of your typical office worker. A 9-1-1 dispatcher has to be able to handle a gunshot wound to a child and turn around and handle someone with a mailbox vandalism all within a matter of minutes. Yes PTSD absolutely exists for 9-1-1 dispatchers. Public Safety Communications is a profession that requires highly trained individuals that use a specific skill set to interview callers to get the necessary information in order to begin providing life-saving pre-arrival instructions and then turn their care over to the boots on the ground responders. The shortage of 9-1-1 dispatchers is a nationwide problem. It is imperative that the men and women currently employed receive the same benefits as first responders because that is what we are. I hope you will support HB131 & HB854 because it is time. Sincerely, Pamela L. Hess, CPE Emergency Communications Director Clarke County Sheriff's Office

Last Name: Campbell Organization: City of Alexandria Department of Emergency and Customer Communications 911/311 Locality: Alexandria

February 03, 2022 I am writing today to ask for your support in reclassifying 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service (SB 585, HB 131, HB 854). These 9-1-1 dispatchers are the First Responders in our communities across the state. They are equally as important as any other public safety personnel. They may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, make split second decisions based on caller background with respect to correct event types, location accuracy and coordinate the dispatch and safe and swift arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. 911 Telecommunicators are the voice without a face and more times than not, do not have the luxury of knowing the disposition of calls handled. Their instructions and call handling can mean the matter of positive outcome or negative outcome. Re-classifying 911 Telecommunicators as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. There is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. It is time for Virginia to join other states and localities in demanding the legislature recognizes their dedication and contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place to live and visit. We are not clerical workers or Taxi cab dispatchers. Thank you!

Last Name: Huffman Locality: Spotsylvania

Dispatchers deserve more they are the first responders. They are the first line of help when needed.

Last Name: Bowman Organization: Chesterfield Emergency Communications Locality: Chesterfield

I have been working in the 911 profession for over 23 years and I am writing in support of HB854/HB131 offering enhanced retirement benefits for Telecommunicators. The professionals serving the Commonwealth in the capacity of telecommunicator possess a unique skillset which allows them to take control of an emergency prior to arrival of other public safety resources. They calm citizens experiencing unimaginable stress, provide pre arrival (and often life saving) instructions, obtain information, determine resource needs, manage the response and coordination of resources, and ensure citizens receive what they need while keeping responders safe. Without a doubt, their contributions are essential to communities as they serve as the first first responder. Like our colleagues in fire, EMS, and law enforcement, telecommunicators are essential to emergency preparedness, response and recovery in the Commonwealth. Telecommunicators work 24/7/365 with no lapse in coverage so that someone is always available to answer emergency calls, keep responders and citizens safe and coordinate and manage resources responding to emergency situations. Days, nights, weekends, holidays, inclement weather and in times of crisis and civil unrest, telecommunicators are the quiet profession in the background staffing 911 centers to assist citizens and coordinate emergency events making the success of field operations possible. Telecommunicators require specialized and ongoing training, quality assurance, and a fierce and ongoing commitment to serving the community. Within our small center of 12 full time employees, we continue to struggle to recruit and retain qualified applicants who can not only perform the lifesaving duties associated with the position but also to possess the personality and skillset to manage stressful situations while keeping their own mental health at a desirable level. We currently have two open positions that have been vacant since November 2021 causing continued staffing hardship and long hours with limited time off for the full time employees that remain. Our staffing struggles are not unique as there is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. Adding enhanced retirement benefits will encourage more individuals to make emergency communications a career that may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions.

Last Name: Strawderman Organization: Harrisonburg-Rockingham Emergency Communications Center Locality: Broadway, Va

I would like to stress the importance of making dispatchers first responders. Just this past Tuesday we had two officers fatally shot. Our centers dispatchers took calls from citizens and attempted to administer aid until responders arrived. We may not be on scene, but we heard the struggles of a citizen dragging the one officer to safety to administer aid and saying, “I think he quit breathing”. We attempted to dispatch the other officer not knowing he was also shot. That dispatcher is now struggling with grief and guilt because she didn’t call his cell phone like we are supposed to when he didn’t answer his radio. This is just one example. I myself about two weeks ago administered emergency medical dispatch for choking (gave the caller instructions) to dislodge a piece of food that bystanders couldn’t dislodge with the Heimlich maneuver. Without my training and first response over the phone, that patient would have likely died as she was going unconscious and losing oxygen quickly. With my instructions the food was dislodged and the patient was conscious, breathing, and talking when responders arrived just a few minutes of being dispatched. You could feel and hear the relief through the phone when the food became dislodged. These two instances occurred with in weeks of each other after the start to the 2022 year. Just imagine doing this all year and year after year. We NEED the first responder acknowledgment and benefits. Being a dispatcher is rewarding, but yet it can be very taxing and strenuous mentally and physically. We suffer just as much if not more than firefighters and EMT’s because we rarely get closure once we hang up that phone. We also get PTSD and other health complications from what we hear and go through even though we are not on location. Thank you for considering this and taking a step in the right direction to support those that are never seen, always heard and, always there when you need us and still there when you do t need us.

Last Name: Malloy Organization: City of Winchester Emergency Communications Locality: Frederick County

I am writing in support of HB131 with the following caveat: HB131 states the provisions of this act apply to full-time dispatchers for a public safety answering point hired on or after January 1, 2022. I would ask that this be amended to the date stipulation. Although this would help with recruitment of new 9-1-1 Professionals, it does not help with retention of current 9-1-1 Professionals. 9-1-1 Professionals are critical to our citizens and other first responders in the Commonwealth. They are the “First” first responder to the caller whose baby is not breathing, the person trapped in a burning house, the frightened caller whose house was just broken into. These highly trained professionals require considerable patience and professionalism to calmly transmit to an officer, firefighter or EMT while assisting the scared or hysterical caller on the phone at the same time. Many overlook the emotional and mental toll it takes on each of the 9-1-1 Professionals hearing officers fight for their lives, listening to people be attacked or screams of folks waiting for help to arrive at a fire – in some cases arriving too late. As a director of a 9-1-1 Center that is at a 43% vacancy, I struggle to not only recruit personnel but retain the very dedicated personnel I currently have. These personnel have served our community with unwavering dedication, but this can only sustain for so long. My center, as with so many other centers, are just barely making do – we do that because we must. We do this not because we want to, but because we are forced to do so. It takes an extreme amount of time to train a new 9-1-1 Professional, much more time in fact than many other jobs in the community. The length of time to train a new 9-1-1 Professional is so long because of the number of certifications that must be obtained, the amount of technology that must be mastered, and the sheer volume of information that must be absorbed. The job of a 9-1-1 Professional has a profound impact not only on the citizens that rely on that ever-present lifeline, but also our fellow first responders. We can’t hire someone off of the street and put them “in the seat” after just a few short weeks because when that mother is holding a lifeless baby in her arms who isn’t breathing, or a firefighter is being attacked by an intoxicated person, or a police officer is in a shootout with an armed suspect, a 9-1-1 Professional cannot take time to think – they must react immediately and upon instinct. The length of time to train a new employee is so long because muscle memory must be developed so that when a member of the community or another first responder is in danger or in need of life-saving assistance, the 9-1-1 Professional on the other end of the line is able to simply react without thought. The unfortunate consequences of not reacting on instinct can and often do have life-altering, very dire consequences. It is these situations that often haunt a 9-1-1 Professional until their dying days – hearing a mother’s screams over and over or hearing a trapped firefighter or wounded police officer say over the radio “tell my family I love them” as they take their last dying breath. PTSD and burnout are very real in this line of work, and adding the January 1, 2022, hire date stipulation to this bill will only further exacerbate an already dire staffing crisis.

Last Name: Pratt Organization: New River Valley Emergency Communications Regional Authority Locality: Montgomery

Though there may never be enough recognition or gratitude for the men and women that dedicate themselves to being 911 Dispatcher, what an INCREDIBLE start passing this legislation would provide. These public servants put themselves in the position of helping people through their worst moments and ensuring the safety of fellow first responders day after day - all while navigating how to cope with and process the lasting AND increasing mental load this job requires. The job of a 911 Dispatcher is only going to continue to become more complex in nature, and, with the shifting nature of our current society, is only going to become more thankless. Your consideration for this Bill is so greatly appreciated. Please don't pass up the opportunity to be part of such an incredible step forward for the recognition of these unseen heroes.

Last Name: Martin Locality: Spotsylvania

Why is this even debatable? Do the right thing and vote to approve!!! 911 operators and dispatchers rock!

Last Name: Harmon Organization: NRV Emergency Communications Regional Authority Locality: Christiansburg

02/03/2022 Dear Delegate Reid, I am writing today to ask for your support in reclassifying 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service (SB 585, HB 131, HB 854). The 9-1-1 dispatchers in our community are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, they may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. There is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. The 911 dispatchers were an essential part of the response to the pandemic and worked many hours of overtime to make sure that calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia have recognized 911 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. Thank you very much for your time and any efforts you take to show the numerous 911 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them. Sincerely, Anthony S. Harmon 920 Elk Drive Christiansburg, Va 24073 Cell: (276) 733-6437 harmonas@nrv911.org

Last Name: Brubaker Locality: Warrenton

I fully support Public Safety Telecommunicators being fully recognized as the equal partners they are with their brothers and sisters in Law Enforcement, Fire & Rescue, Jail and Corrections careers. They deal with all of the most enduring and consistent stressors of our First Responder jobs: the emotional and psychological effects of regularly dealing with people in crisis; and the physical and quality of life effects of 24-7/365 shift work. Quite frankly, their jobs wear on the mind and body just as much as the rest of us; and that’s why they need and deserve the same enhanced and shortened retirement benefits. Thank you for taking care of the Telecommunicators who take care of the community and their fellow First Responders every day in the Commonwealth.”

Last Name: Akers Organization: NRV911 Locality: Blacksburg

02/03/2021 Hello, I am writing today to ask for your support in reclassifying 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service (HB 131 and HB 854). The 9-1-1 dispatchers in our community are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, they may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. There is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. The 911 dispatchers were an essential part of the response to the pandemic and worked many hours of overtime to make sure that calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia have recognized 911 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. Thank you very much for your time and any efforts you take to show the numerous 911 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them. Sincerely, Toby J. Akers Jr. 228 Huntington Lane Blacksburg, VA 24060

Last Name: Hall Locality: Edinburg

The communications officers are the first ones who hear the trauma that comes along with answering 911 calls for service. They listen to screaming mothers who find their children not breathing. They calm the frightened child whose father wont wake up. They listen to the last desperate plea from a person in crisis before ending their own life. They hear the fearful call for help of an officer down. These folks work long shifts with low pay in the most stressful of environments. If they can work long enough in this field to retire, they deserve the same benefits as all first responders. Everyone should be considered equal when saving lives. It takes a special person to handle these incidents daily. It takes a very special person to make a career of it. They should be rewarded for the service they have provided to the community.

Last Name: ROWE Locality: MONTGOMERY COUNTY

February 3, 2022 I am writing today to ask for your support in reclassifying 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service (SB 585, HB 131, HB 854). The 9-1-1 dispatchers in our community are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, they may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. There is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. The 911 dispatchers were an essential part of the response to the pandemic and worked many hours of overtime to make sure that calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia have recognized 911 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. Thank you very much for your time and any efforts you take to show the numerous 911 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them. Sincerely, Michelle Rowe

Last Name: Young Organization: Twin County Regional 9-1-1 Commission Locality: Woodlawn, VA

As a 9-1-1 PSAP Director, I support reclassifying 9-1-1 Communication Officers to public safety. They work alongside their EMS, LAW, and FIRE peers on 12 hour shifts, day and night, weekends and holidays. The majority of public safety incidents begin with them obtaining adequate information to get the appropriate responders to the right location. This is not ad administrative role. The National Standard requires a minimum of 8 weeks of training before an operator can take a call or dispatch independently. They must be familiar with reading a map, police protocol, fire protocol and medical protocol, There are few Communication Officers who have been in the role a year who have not had someone die during a call. Even prior to the recent challenges in recruiting, PSAP's have struggled for years with recruitment and retention. Now it is impossible to recruit sufficient staff to maintain minimal coverage. To ensure the continued quality of Virginia's 9-1-1 response, please vote yes for reclassification.

Last Name: Steven Powers Organization: Dickenson County 911 Locality: Clintwood

Good evening, I humbly ask that you strongly consider passing HB131/HB854. With the changing economic climate we are unable to compete with minimum wage jobs, there are no incentives to be a life saving public servant, and that is what our dispatchers are. They deserve the recognition that being classified as a first responder affords them. Without this in addition to a pathway to better pay, the 1st line of defense for our citizens the 1st, link in the chain of survival in an emergency will become weaker and weaker to the point of breaking. This endangers every citizen and visitor to the State of Virginia. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Last Name: Smith Locality: Lynchburg VA

Do the right thing, and reclassify dispatchers to join the rest of the team.

Last Name: Harvey Locality: Town of Hopewell

I am a 911 dispatcher for 24 years all with Caroline county. On any given day, we provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. We are the first person that  you interact with during an emergency. We’re the first person that makes decisions that will get the resources there quickly and adequately. We are highly trained individuals that handle critical situations. Every call is a crisis. Every choice about dispatch can have life or death consequences. We play an important role in our safety in communities. Filling Dispatch positions is challenging and the failure to accord us this professional  public safety status is not making easier. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders.

Last Name: Dodson Organization: Radford City Police and 911 Locality: Radford

I am writing today to ask for your support in reclassifying 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service (SB 585, HB 131, HB 854). The 9-1-1 dispatchers in our community are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, they may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. There is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. The 911 dispatchers were an essential part of the response to the pandemic and worked many hours of overtime to make sure that calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia have recognized 911 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. Thank you very much for your time and any efforts you take to show the numerous 911 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them. Sincerely, Jeff Dodson Chief of Police Radford City Police Department Jeffrey.Dodson@radfordva.gov

Last Name: Wilcoxson Organization: Emergency Dispatchers across our Commonwealth Locality: Lynchburg VA

For too long dispatchers, who represent the first link of the chain of survival in an emergency, have been excluded from recognition of their role as part of the emergency response team. I invite legislators to visit any of my EMD agencies and experience firsthand what it is like to coach a spouse over the phone through providing CPR for a loved one , or to coordinate the response of Fire, EMS, Law Enforcement, towing vehicles, AEP and VDOT to a collision involving multiple vehicles and patients. This is a tremendously high stress role requiring multiple skills and abilities, because the rest of the response chain depends on it. It is past time to recognize their contributions as being equal with those that they dispatch to the scene.

Last Name: Smith Locality: SPOTSYLVANIA

Dear Virginia House of Delegates, I strongly support the bills to reclassify our 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service ( HB 131, HB 854). Our 9-1-1 dispatchers in our community are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, they may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. Thanks for you help, Janice Smith

Last Name: Wwlls Locality: Spotsylvania

911 operators experience the same issues that deputies experience

Last Name: Bennett Organization: Lake Anna Rescue Locality: Mineral

Please allow retirements benefits for this stressful job.

Last Name: Sienkowski Locality: Stafford County

Our 911 dispatchers experience trauma on a daily basis. Their phone calls involve people who are in distress, for one reason or another. They listen and engage with victims of violence, emergency events, and disturbing scenes. The dispatchers hear and react to the distress and emotions of their callers, and they take those voices and sounds home with them and replay them in nightmares, daydreams, and odd moments. Dispatchers deserve full classification as hazardous duty service responders. More often than not, they ARE the very first responders to traumatic events.

Last Name: Ferguson Locality: Stafford

I'm writing today asking you to reclassify 911 dispatchers as first responders. I have been a 911 dispatcher for more than 11 years and have seen and experienced what the job can do to a person. We may not physically be on the scene of an emergency but we are there mentally and emotionally. I ask you, how many times have you spoken to someone on the phone who is crying or screaming because they just found their spouse, parent, friend or child deceased? How many times have you talked to someone who is terrified and hiding in their closet because someone broke into their home. Or someone who was just robbed, or assaulted or was injured. How about someone who is hurt and alone? How about a parent who can't find their child? These are just a few examples of calls that 911 dispatchers take everyday. Not to mention the stress of what that next call may be. All this while making sure that our friends and colleagues in the field are safe and have the resources that they need. We leave work exhausted and emotionally drained everyday. We only ask that you do the right thing and reclassify our position.

Last Name: Shank Organization: Shenandoah County Emergency Communications Center Locality: Shenandoah County

I am writing today to ask for your support in reclassifying 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service (HB 131, HB 854). The 9-1-1 dispatchers in our community are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, we may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. There is a staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. The 911 dispatchers were an essential part of the response to the pandemic and worked many hours of overtime to make sure that calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia have recognized 911 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. Thank you very much for your time and any efforts you take to show the numerous 911 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them. Sincerely, Danielle Shank Shenandoah County ECC 600 N. Main St., Ste. 109 Woodstock, VA 22664

Last Name: Vannoy Organization: Appomattox County Locality: Appomattox

As a 911 Center Supervisor, I whole heartily request that you support HB854 Enhanced Retirement benefits for 911 Dispatchers. Emergency-911 (E-911) dispatchers are known as the "first" first responders, because without them, no first responder would ever be dispatched on an incident. Dispatchers experience many of the same psychological trauma and stressors as law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. To make matters worse, dispatchers rarely get closure as they are not focused on one incident, so they do not see the final resolution or closure to a 911 call. Additionally, recruitment and retention of E-911 dispatchers is a nationwide problem, due to the nature of the job. Challenges include the trauma stressors, difficult hours worked, and lower salaries compared to other first responders.

Last Name: Ellard Locality: Warren County

Dispatch endure the same kind of stress and mental health concerns as other first responders. Research has shown that first responders have an increased rate of a resting heart rate from all stress that is endured from the everyday job. This increases risks of heart/stress related health concerns. Dispatchers are not covered as the way it currently stands. Dispatchers are the very first interaction with the public and get citizens the help that they need are often referred to as the first, first responders. As it stands, dispatchers are classified as secretaries and have to work more years until retirement. Dispatchers do much more than office tasks and still encounter the same stress as police or fire. When citizens need help, they call 911. When officers need help, they call 911 on the radio. When fire needs help, they call 911 on the radio. It all starts with 911 and dispatchers.

Last Name: Hise Organization: Department of Emergency Services 911 Lynchburg Virginia Locality: Amherst Co

Date 2/3/2022 Dear Delegate Wendell Walker I writing today to ask for your support in reclassifying 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service (SB 585, HB 131, HB 854). The 9-1-1 dispatchers in our community are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, they may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. There is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. The 911 dispatchers were an essential part of the response to the pandemic and worked many hours of overtime to make sure that calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia have recognized 911 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. Thank you very much for your time and any efforts you take to show the numerous 911 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them. Sincerely, Kim Hise 2078 Elon Rd Madison Heights, Virginia 24572

Last Name: Butler Locality: Spotsylvania

Please consider our 911 dispatchers for enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service.

Last Name: Haythe Locality: Appomattox

February 1, 2022 Virginia General Assembly Attn: Senator Mark J. Peake Pocahontas Building Room No: E615 Senate of Virginia P. O. Box 396 Dear Senator Mark J. Peake: On behalf of the over 2,000 9-1-1 professionals in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I write today to urge your support for HB 131, HB 854, and SB 585. These bills will not just provide 9-1-1 professionals with the benefits they deserve for their hard work and dedication but will also provide 9-1-1 with the ability to better attract and retain talented professionals — a must in the midst of the 9-1-1 staffing crisis. HB 131 and HB 854 and SB 585 provide 9-1-1 dispatchers with the opportunity to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service alongside their first responder counterparts. The work performed by professionals in the 9-1-1 center is challenging, stressful, and requires extensive technical skills and training — a far cry from merely answering phone calls. These bills are not only about recognizing this reality and giving 9-1-1 professionals the respect which they deserve, but also about allowing 9-1-1 to attract talented and dedicated individuals who are willing to answer the call for public safety. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 9-1-1 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academies of Emergency Dispatch report that some 9-1-1 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. Of the bills listed, HB 131 provides these benefits only to individuals hired after January 1, 2022. We urge you to remove this date stipulation and provide these benefits to all 9-1-1 professionals regardless of their hire date as a way to begin to address the turnover rate and address a portion of the current staffing crisis. The 9-1-1 dispatchers were and continue to be an essential part of the response to the pandemic and have worked many hours of overtime to make sure that emergency calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, and West Virginia have recognized 9-1-1 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. We thank you for your consideration of these crucial bills and the efforts you take to show the numerous 9-1-1 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them. Sincerely, Sandra Haythe 687 Vineyard Rd Concord, Va 24538

Last Name: Haythe Locality: Appomattox

February 1, 2022 Virginia General Assembly Attn: Delegate C. Matthew Fariss Pocahontas Building 900 E. Main St, Richmond, Virginia 23219 Dear Delegate C. Matthew Fariss: On behalf of the over 2,000 9-1-1 professionals in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I write today to urge your support for HB 131, HB 854, and SB 585. These bills will not just provide 9-1-1 professionals with the benefits they deserve for their hard work and dedication but will also provide 9-1-1 with the ability to better attract and retain talented professionals — a must in the midst of the 9-1-1 staffing crisis. HB 131 and HB 854 and SB 585 provide 9-1-1 dispatchers with the opportunity to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service alongside their first responder counterparts. The work performed by professionals in the 9-1-1 center is challenging, stressful, and requires extensive technical skills and training — a far cry from merely answering phone calls. These bills are not only about recognizing this reality and giving 9-1-1 professionals the respect which they deserve, but also about allowing 9-1-1 to attract talented and dedicated individuals who are willing to answer the call for public safety. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 9-1-1 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academies of Emergency Dispatch report that some 9-1-1 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. Of the bills listed, HB 131 provides these benefits only to individuals hired after January 1, 2022. We urge you to remove this date stipulation and provide these benefits to all 9-1-1 professionals regardless of their hire date as a way to begin to address the turnover rate and address a portion of the current staffing crisis. The 9-1-1 dispatchers were and continue to be an essential part of the response to the pandemic and have worked many hours of overtime to make sure that emergency calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, and West Virginia have recognized 9-1-1 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. We thank you for your consideration of these crucial bills and the efforts you take to show the numerous 9-1-1 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them. Sincerely, Sandra Haythe 687 Vineyard Rd Concord, VA 24538

Last Name: Edmonds Organization: 911 Telecommunicator Locality: Mecklenburg

I support these bills and believe Telecommunicator deserve Enhanced Retirement Benefits. I have been a Telecommunicator for 15 years plus

Last Name: Seward Organization: Brunswick County Sheriff's Office Locality: Brunswick

Please consider supporting Enhanced Retirement Benefits for telecommunicators! As a nearly 20 year veteran, this will be life changing for current and future telecommunicators. The benefits, commonly known as LEO, currently are supplied to law enforcement officers and firefighters. However, us telecommunicators are first responders as well! We are the first point of contact and the lifeline that links everyone! I would like to thank you all far in advance for all support and consideration.

Last Name: Smallwood Organization: Richmond Emergency Communications Locality: Chesterfield County

02/03/2022 Dear Senator or Delegate: I am writing today to ask for your support in reclassifying 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service (SB 585, HB 131, HB 854). The 9-1-1 dispatchers in our community are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, they may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. There is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. The 911 dispatchers were an essential part of the response to the pandemic and worked many hours of overtime to make sure that calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia have recognized 911 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. Thank you very much for your time and any efforts you take to show the numerous 911 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them. Sincerely, Ulrica Smallwood 6116 Bowline Ln North Chesterfield, VA 23234

Last Name: Vann Locality: Strasburg - Shenandoah County

attached is a link to an article that I wrote that was published in Law Enforcement Today in 2019 in support of Telecommunicator's being classified as First Responders. https://www.lawenforcementtoday.com/never-forget-the-screams-first-responder-dispatcher-benefits/

Last Name: Nevill Locality: Warrenton

I fully support Public Safety Telecommunicators being robustly recognized as the equal partners they are with their brothers and sisters in Law Enforcement, Fire & Rescue, Jail and Corrections careers. They deal with all of the most enduring and consistent stressors of our First Responder jobs: the emotional and psychological effects of regularly dealing with people in crisis; and the physical and quality of life effects of 24-7/365 shift work. Quite frankly, their jobs wear on the mind and body just as much as the rest of us; and that’s why they need and deserve the same enhanced and shortened retirement benefits. Thank you for taking care of the Telecommunicators who take care of the community and their fellow First Responders every day in the Commonwealth.

Last Name: Clary Locality: Brunswick

I am writing in support of HB854 offering enhanced retirement benefits for Telecommunicators. The professionals serving the Commonwealth in the capacity of telecommunicator possess a unique skillset which allows them to take control of an emergency prior to arrival of other public safety resources. They calm citizens experiencing unimaginable stress, provide pre arrival (and often life saving) instructions, obtain information, determine resource needs, manage the response and coordination of resources, and ensure citizens receive what they need while keeping responders safe. Without a doubt, their contributions are essential to communities as they serve as the first first responder. Like our colleagues in fire, EMS, and law enforcement, telecommunicators are essential to emergency preparedness, response and recovery in the Commonwealth. Telecommunicators work 24/7/365 with no lapse in coverage so that someone is always available to answer emergency calls, keep responders and citizens safe and coordinate and manage resources responding to emergency situations. Days, nights, weekends, holidays, inclement weather and in times of crisis and civil unrest, telecommunicators are the quiet profession in the background staffing 911 centers to assist citizens and coordinate emergency events making the success of field operations possible. Telecommunicators require specialized and ongoing training, quality assurance, and a fierce and ongoing commitment to serving the community. Within our small center of 12 full time employees, we continue to struggle to recruit and retain qualified applicants who can not only perform the lifesaving duties associated with the position but also to possess the personality and skillset to manage stressful situations while keeping their own mental health at a desirable level. We currently have two open positions that have been vacant since November 2021 causing continued staffing hardship and long hours with limited time off for the full time employees that remain. Our staffing struggles are not unique as there is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. Adding enhanced retirement benefits will encourage more individuals to make emergency communications a career that may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. Thank you in advance for supporting all first responders, including Telecommunicators, in the Commonwealth.

Last Name: Foster Organization: Lynchburg Department of Emergency Services Locality: Appomattox County

On behalf of the employees of the Lynchburg Department of Emergency Services I would like to thank you for taking the time to consider this bill to provide enhanced retirement benefits to 911 dispatchers. Our employees serve as the first, first responders on thousands of calls for service per year. They are the first to hear a heartbroken parent's cry when their child is not breathing. They are the first to know when a tornado touches down in our locality and destroys homes and jeopardizes lives. When others are sheltering in place our employees know that they are needed and respond to work without hesitation. They must remain calm when everyone they are talking with is hysterical so that they can get them the help that is needed. They are providing CPR instructions and other lifesaving instructions to callers so that patient care begins prior to EMS arriving on the scene. They are the calm reassuring voice that child callers need when they have witnessed or been the victims of domestic violence. The secondary trauma that these employees experience each day can take its toll. Our employees and 911 dispatchers across the Commonwealth stand ready to respond even during the most trying times. During the pandemic as staffing challenges became even worse because of sickness and turnover they remained steadfast and continued to answer the call. They worked hundreds of hours of additional overtime to make sure that people would receive a response to their emergencies. Please support these bills to provide enhanced retirements benefits so that they will know that the Commonwealth understands that 911 dispatchers are the first, first responders. Respectfully, Melissa Foster Director Lynchburg Department of Emergency Services

Last Name: Corbin Locality: Augusta County

Comments Document

I am writing today to ask for your support in reclassifying 911 telecommunicators, communicators, dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service (SB 585, HB 131, HB 854). The 9-1-1 dispatchers in our communities are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, they may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel, or unfortunately this week, our agency received calls regarding an active shooter on campus, where two officer lost their lives. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders.

Last Name: Saxton Organization: VA Chapter of Association of Public Safety Communication Officials (APCO) Locality: Crozet

Comments Document

Please see my attached letter of support. I have seen first-hand the on-going 9-1-1 staffing crisis and the on-going challenges this creates with our ability to continue to deliver high quality services to the communities we serve. Last year, I participated directly with developing content for the Emergency-911 Border Response Workgroup Report to the Governor and General Assembly which outlined challenges to ensure quality 9-1-1 service is available to all. Reclassification needs were included in the top priorities identified. Additionally, a recent survey of responders in VA found that over 49% attributed depression they had experienced to their work in emergency communications. It is a reality that 9-1-1 service is a hazardous occupation.

Last Name: Vann Locality: Shenandoah County - Strasburg

I have worked as a 911 telecommunicator for 22 years. My comments are in support of HB854. We are truly the first responders to any emergency when citizens call 911. We provide life saving instructions for CPR, bleeding control, choking, seizing, women in labor and other life threatening emergencies. When we answer calls we hear the initial panic, fear and pain of people. We are the calming voice that provides support, instruction and encouragement to people in crisis. We tell them to hold on help is coming and we will stay with them as long as necessary on the phone. I have been on the other end of that phone when a mother discovers her baby not breathing, an elderly man's wife who didn't wake up that morning, an officer pleading for back up, a scared child who just found their mom unconscious and they are all alone. I talked to a lady who called me on the phone and told me she was going to end her life and where we could find her. She had the gun to her head as I pleaded with her to put the gun away and just talk to me. She told me of her husband and son had both died and she had nothing to live for. Again I pleaded with her not to do it. The next noise I heard was the gun going off and her dropping to the floor. I have sounds, voices and screams I will never forget. I also have the memories of the ones I helped save because I truly made a difference in the outcome. We are first responders. We go through the emotions of stress, worry and fear as other first responders. Our emotions are different only in everything for us is auditory. And only hearing something and not seeing it does make the mind go to worst case scenario more often. We do more than answer phones. We help people survive until the arrival of Fire, EMS and police. For a person to retire from our profession in this day and age is a rare. We lose most people in the first 5 years. Please consider supporting and showing appreciation for the people who spend nights, weekends, birthdays and holidays away from their own families to help protect the people and the communities that they care about.

Last Name: Keesling Locality: N Chesterfield

Hello. I am a career 911 telecommunicator with 26 years of service. I have experienced the ups, the downs and everything there is in between due to my career. I have experienced extensive health issues associated with this sedentary job. I have also experienced significant family problems such as separation, divorce, missing important family functions and have been diagnosed with PTSD and compassion fatigue. I also have a young son with special needs. Passing and approving this retirement bill will help me to be home to tend to my young son after a long, successful career in this sometimes difficult and stressful work environment.

Last Name: Lewis Organization: Fauquier County Sheriff's Office Locality: Fauquier County

I fully support Public Safety Telecommunicators being fully recognized as the equal partners they are with their brothers and sisters in Law Enforcement, Fire & Rescue, Jail and Corrections careers. I believe they should have the same shortened retirement benefits as their fellow first responders. These men and women deserve it, as they are the first line of communication with our first responders. They deal with the stress and the emotional effects in their job field. Their schedules mimic shift work , with their fellow first responders. Thank you for taking the time and consideration of these house bills for our Public Safety Telecommunicators. I truly support it.

Last Name: Shores Organization: Fauquier County Sheriffs Office Locality: Warrenton

“I fully support Public Safety Telecommunicators being fully recognized as the equal partners they are with their brothers and sisters in Law Enforcement, Fire & Rescue, Jail and Corrections careers. They deal with all of the most enduring and consistent stressors of our First Responder jobs: the emotional and psychological effects of regularly dealing with people in crisis; and the physical and quality of life effects of 24-7/365 shift work. Quite frankly, their jobs wear on the mind and body just as much as the rest of us; and that’s why they need and deserve the same enhanced and shortened retirement benefits. Thank you for taking care of the Telecommunicators who take care of the community and their fellow First Responders every day in the Commonwealth.”

Last Name: Dudley Locality: Fairfax

I am writing today to support SB 585, HB131/854 to reclassifying 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service . The 9-1-1 dispatchers in our community are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, they may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. 911 dispatchers are known as the "first" first responders, because without them, no first responder would ever be dispatched on an incident. Dispatcher’s experience many of the same psychological trauma and stressors as law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. To make matters worse, dispatchers rarely get closure as they are not focused on one incident, so they do not see the final resolution or closure to a 911 call There is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. It is time for Virginia to join the other states who already recognize 911 dispatchers as first responders and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. Thank you very much for your time and any efforts you take to show the numerous 911 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them. Sincerely, Shristhi Dudley, RPL Public Safety Operations Manager- Herndon Police Department.

Last Name: Skebo Organization: Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office Locality: Spotsylvania, Virginia

February 03, 2022 I am writing today to ask for your support in reclassifying 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service (SB 585, HB 131, HB 854). The 9-1-1 dispatchers in our community are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, they may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. There is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. The 911 dispatchers were an essential part of the response to the pandemic and worked many hours of overtime to make sure that calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia have recognized 911 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. Thank you very much for your time and any efforts you take to show the numerous 911 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them. Sincerely, Major Troy J. Skebo Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office

Last Name: Bundy Locality: Luray

I am writing today to ask for your support in reclassifying 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service (SB 585, HB 131, HB 854). The 9-1-1 dispatchers in our community are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, they may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. I am a former 911 Dispatcher of almost 7 years, having worked at both the local (county) and federal level (National Park Service). My spouse has also worked in this field for over 15 years, having moved up from dispatcher to dispatch supervisor for past few years. This topic hits very close to home for me. I have also been diagnosed with a mental health condition (complex PTSD) that partially stemmed from my time spent in this field and the traumatic events I worked while there. While I have been fortunate to find resources and rehabilitate myself that may not be the case for everyone working in this field. I will also add that my journey/rehabilitation was not easy by any means and it took me almost 10 years to see large changes in my life. For that reason, it is imperative that we provide this additional benefit to our dispatchers in all agencies across Virginia who are so dedicated to their profession and serving their communities in this way. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. There is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. The 911 dispatchers were an essential part of the response to the pandemic and worked many hours of overtime to make sure that calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia have recognized 911 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. Thank you very much for your time and any efforts you take to show the numerous 911 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them.

Last Name: Nevill Organization: Fauquier County Sheriff's Office Locality: Warrenton

I fully support Public Safety Telecommunicators being fully recognized as the equal partners they are with their brothers and sisters in Law Enforcement, Fire & Rescue, Jail and Corrections careers. They deal with all of the most enduring and consistent stressors of our First Responder jobs: the emotional and psychological effects of regularly dealing with people in crisis; and the physical and quality of life effects of 24-7/365 shift work. Quite frankly, their jobs wear on the mind and body just as much as the rest of us; and that's why they need and deserve the same enhanced and shortened retirement benefits. Thank you for taking care of the Telecommunicators who take care of the community and their fellow First Responders every day in the Commonwealth.

Last Name: Kight Organization: Fauquier County Sheriff's Office Locality: Culpeper

I support HB131/854. Over the last 25 years, I have answered the call, the call from a screaming mother who's baby is not breathing, the scared father whose wife is giving birth to a breach deliver in the middle of a blizzard, the domestics, the shootings. In the June of 2021, one of our senior telecommunicators suffered from mental fatigue and burnout worry about what might happen while she was on duty. She was on medical leave for several months in the hopes of returning to full duty in October, 2021. She was unable to return and retired on December 31, 2021 after 30 years of service to our community as a Public Safety Telecommunicator. I share this information with her permission. She too supports the bill. Public Safety Telecommunicators face the same calls as our brothers and sisters in law enforcement and fire and rescue. Only it is multiple calls for one incident and the sounds and voices that paint the picture for them and soon will be the videos and photos received via text-9-1-1. I urge you to pass the bill.

Last Name: Marshall Locality: Fauquier

I am writing today to ask for your support in reclassifying 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service ( HB 131, HB 854). The 9-1-1 dispatchers in our community are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, they may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. There is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. The 911 dispatchers were an essential part of the response to the pandemic and worked many hours of overtime to make sure that calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia have recognized 911 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. I would also like to mention that I recently took a 911 call from a subject who's husband was having severe chest pain. While on the phone obtaining information I recognized that this was more than the normal chest pain and the patient was in critical condition. Due to recognizing this I was able to provide pre-arrival medial instructions and dispatch appropriate personnel who were able to save the patients life. I spoke to the supervisor that was on the call after they cleared and he told me that had it not been for me adding the additional resources this patient would not have survived the heart attack he was experiencing, which is known as the "widow maker". Telecommunicators take and dispatch hundreds of calls every day where their actions have a direct impact on the outcome of the call. Thank you very much for your time and any efforts you take to show the numerous 911 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them.

Last Name: SCHMIDT Organization: FAUQUIER COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE Locality: culpeper

My name is Susan Schmidt. I have been a telecommunicator for 19 years. We experience the same calls that the police and F/R respond to since we answer the call. We give CPR instructions to parents of children, many have delivered babies on the phone, we have spoken to people that have family members that have been murdered, we take phone calls for bank robberies, hostage situations and many other demanding situations. Our job is very demanding and stressful. We need to be classified as First Responders due to fact that we are First Responders not clerks or secretaries. Thank you

Last Name: Morris Organization: Department of Emergency Communications/City of Richmond Va Locality: Chesterfield County

Date 2/3/2022 Dear Senator or Delegate : I am writing today to ask for your support in reclassifying 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service (SB 585, HB 131, HB 854). The 9-1-1 dispatchers in our community are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, they may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. There is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. The 911 dispatchers were an essential part of the response to the pandemic and worked many hours of overtime to make sure that calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia have recognized 911 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. Thank you very much for your time and any efforts you take to show the numerous 911 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them. Sincerely, April Morris 7555 Valencia Dr Chesterfield, Va. 23832

Last Name: BREEDLOVE Organization: FAUQUIER CO. SHERIFFS OFFICE Locality: Warrenton

I SUPPORT THESE BILLS, AND 911 DISPATCHERS DESERVE TO BE CLASSIFIED AS FIRST RESPONDERS

Last Name: Phillips Organization: Bath County Sheriff's Office Locality: WARM SPRINGS

I am writing today to ask for your support in reclassifying 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service (SB 585, HB 131, HB 854). The 9-1-1 dispatchers in our community are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, they may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. There is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. The 911 dispatchers were an essential part of the response to the pandemic and worked many hours of overtime to make sure that calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia have recognized 911 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. Thank you very much for your time and any efforts you take to show the numerous 911 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them. Sincerely, Sgt. Teresa K. Phillips Bath County Sheriff’s Office

Last Name: Ashby Locality: Fauquier County

I support these bills

Last Name: Byrd Locality: richmond

February 3, 2022 Dear Senator or Delegate (delete title that does not apply) (fill in appropriate name): I am writing today to ask for your support in reclassifying 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service (SB 585, HB 131, HB 854). The 9-1-1 dispatchers in our community are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, they may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. There is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. The 911 dispatchers were an essential part of the response to the pandemic and worked many hours of overtime to make sure that calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia have recognized 911 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. Thank you very much for your time and any efforts you take to show the numerous 911 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them. Sincerely, Delivia Byrd 3516 N Hopkins RD Richmond, VA 23224

Last Name: Malloy Locality: Frederick County, Stephens City

On behalf of the over 2,000 9-1-1 professionals in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I write today to urge your support for HB 131, with one suggested amendment. The bill will not just provide 9-1-1 professionals with the benefits they deserve for their hard work & dedication but will also provide 9-1-1 with the ability to better attract & retain talented professionals — a must in the midst of the 9-1-1 staffing crisis. HB 131 will provide 9-1-1 dispatchers with the opportunity to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service alongside their first responder counterparts. The work performed by professionals in the 9-1-1 center is challenging, stressful, & requires extensive technical skills & training — a far cry from merely answering phone calls. One of the phone calls I have personally received includes a mother who found her 1 month old baby unconscious & not breathing. I received this call early in my career & it has always stuck with me. I can still hear that mother's scream when I think back on that call. It was bone chilling, & I did everything I could to push through & give CPR instructions until the fire department arrived. I have been in the industry so long that I have forgotten many of the calls I have taken (most in fact), but that one call sticks with me & haunts me. It is the same kind of stress & haunting thoughts that firefighters, police officers, & other first responders suffer who have been diagnosed with PTSD after years of dealing with society's tragedies. 9-1-1 professionals are the FIRST first responders & should be recognized as such & have access to the same services & retirement. This bill is not only about recognizing this reality & giving 9-1-1 professionals the respect which they deserve, but also about allowing 9-1-1 to attract talented & dedicated individuals who are willing to answer the call for public safety. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 9-1-1 centers is 15 to 20% (o or higher annually. The International Academies of Emergency Dispatch report that some 9-1-1 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. HB 131 provides these benefits only to individuals hired after January 1, 2022. I strongly urge you to amend this bill to remove the date stipulation & provide these benefits to all 9-1-1 professionals regardless of their hire date to begin to address the turnover rate & address a portion of the current staffing crisis. 9-1-1 centers across the Commonwealth have "made do" because they have to, but it doesn't decrease the crisis situation they are in. If they don't "make do", who knows what may happen when someone dials 9-1-1. The 9-1-1 dispatchers were & continue to be an essential part of the response to the pandemic & have worked many hours of overtime to make sure that emergency calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, & West Virginia have recognized 9-1-1 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states & demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place.

Last Name: Johnson Organization: Department of Communications/Richmond City Va Locality: Waverly

Date 2/3/2022 I am writing today to ask for your support in reclassifying 911 telecommunicators and dispatchers so that they will be eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service (SB 585, HB 131, HB 854). The 9-1-1 dispatchers in our community are critically important public safety personnel. On any given day, they may provide emergency medical instructions, deal with suicidal persons, analyze background noises and a caller’s voice to assess a situation, or coordinate the dispatch and safe arrival of police, fire, and EMS personnel. 911 dispatchers are behind the scenes in the public safety field and often go without any type of recognition. Classifying 911 dispatchers as hazardous duty service positions would officially recognize them as the first, first responders. There is staffing crisis in 911 across the nation. The National Emergency Number Association has reported the turnover rate for many 911 centers is 15 to 20% annually. The International Academy reports that some 911 centers currently have 30 to 50% of their positions vacant. This change to benefits would encourage more of these professionals to make this a career which may assist with reducing the high turnover rates in these positions. The 911 dispatchers were an essential part of the response to the pandemic and worked many hours of overtime to make sure that calls did not go unanswered. Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia have recognized 911 dispatchers as first responders. It is time for Virginia to join these states and demonstrate to these employees that the General Assembly recognizes their incredible contribution to making the Commonwealth a safer place. Thank you very much for your time and any efforts you take to show the numerous 911 dispatchers across the Commonwealth that you support them. Sincerely, Heather Johnson 5480 Salisbury Rd Waverly, Va. 23890

Last Name: Drewery Organization: Isle of Wight County Fire Rescue Locality: Southampton County, VA.

I understand that HB131 and HB854 have both been referred to the Compensation and Retirement sub committee which you chair. I would like to provide feedback on both pieces of legislation. First I would like to give you some background. Prior to assuming my current position as the Emergency Management Coordinator for Isle of Wight County I served as a 911 Dispatcher for 10 years; first with the Southampton County Sheriff's Office, then the City of Richmond, and finally here in Isle of Wight County. I know firsthand how difficult this job is. For a long time 911 Dispatchers have been considered secretary or clerical positions, this is simply not the case. I want you to imagine this for a moment. You are the lone dispatcher in a rural 911 Center working the night shift. A 911 call comes in from a woman who is having what seems to be a "routine" asthma attack. You take her information and dispatch the closest volunteer rescue squad. You stay on the phone with her while her condition continues to deteriorate to the point where you can hear her wheezing become progressively worse. Eventually you hear the wheezing stop, you know that this means now she isn't breathing at all, the rescue squad is still 10 minutes away. You keep the line open until you hear that EMS has arrived but it is too late. You have been with this woman in the last moments of her life, unable to do anything but reassure her that help is coming. Is this the job of a secretary? I argue no. In 2021 following a controversial traffic stop in Windsor, our 911 Dispatchers in Isle of Wight received more phone calls than they have ever received. These employees were berated, harassed, and intimidated to the point we had to place Deputy Sheriff's in the 911 Center to ensure their safety. Many Dispatchers came to or left from work in tears. Some were unable to report for duty because of the emotional toll placed on them. Would a secretary be expected to take the same abuse? Again I argue no. Our 911 Dispatchers are on the front lines of public safety. We rely on them to paint a clear picture for responders so that we can make appropriate decisions. These are highly skilled individuals that the community as a whole depends on to keep us safe. It is imperative that they are finally treated and respected as such. Speaking directly to the legislation, I do not agree with the language in HB131 which would only give hazardous duty benefits to 911 Dispatchers hired after January 1, 2022. As someone who is now in part responsible for the management and operation of a 911 Center I feel as this bill would only create more strife and heartache for those 911 Dispatchers who have long served their communities often going unrecognized. I would strongly encourage you and others in the General Assembly to move forward with adopting HB854 which extends hazardous duty benefits to the many 911 Dispatchers who have served this Commonwealth, some for a number of years, and also those who will come after them. As always, I thank you for your leadership and dedication to this Commonwealth but more importantly for the partnership that we have had over the last several years. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you need any additional information or assistance in getting this important piece of legislation passed.

Last Name: Zingg Organization: VA Chapter of NENA Locality: Manassas Park

Comments Document

Please see the attached letter in support of HB 131 & HB 854. Thank you.

End of Comments