The FCC has sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) suggesting that the status of 911 operators be reviewed and reclassified.
Such a change must go through OMB. The agency maintains the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system, which is used by federal agencies “to classify workers into occupational categories for the purpose of collecting, calculating, or disseminating data.”
911 operators hold an Office and Administrative Support Occupation classification. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel suggests in the letter that the technical evolution of the work and responsibilities warrants that they be reclassified and put in the Protective Service category with other emergency response workers.
The evolution of the tools at the disposal of 911 operators has added to their task of taking calls and dispatching responders. Tasks now include integration and analysis of information from multiple sources and assessing appropriate responses. These sources include photos, videos from police and traffic cameras, automated alarms and sensor data.
The letter suggested that the review should occur at the next opportunity. “911 operators are among our most essential first responders,” Rosenworcel wrote in the letter. ” Before a whistle at a fire station blows, an ambulance races or an air horn blares, it is a 911 professional who takes in a call and sets emergency response in motion,” Rosenworcel wrote in the letter recommending that 911 operators be reclassified. “Of course, today’s 911 professionals do far more than answer 911 calls or passively receive information. They provide assistance, guidance, and life-saving advice to 911 callers, particularly in the critical minutes before emergency personnel arrive at the scene. They also actively plan, coordinate, and direct the response activities of emergency personnel, especially when multiple agencies are involved.”
911 usually is in the news only when it has a problem. Unfortunately, that happens on a relatively consistent basis. For instance, last December AT&T, CenturyLink (now Lumen Technology), Verizon and technology provider Intrado agreed to consent decrees totaling more than $6 million due to 911 outages. AT&T agreed to two settlements totaling $460,000, CenturyLink/Lumen agreed to a settlement of $3.8 million, Verizon agreed to a settlement of $274,000 and Intrado agreed to a settlement of $1.75 million.