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Heinrich, Klobuchar, Blackburn, and Thune Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Enhance 9-1-1 Emergency Response System

The legislation would ensure Americans reach help when dialing 9-1-1 during natural disasters and make important updates to the classification of 9-1-1 dispatchers

WASHINGTONU.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced the Enhancing First Response Act, which would make important updates to our 9-1-1 emergency reporting system to ensure Americans can reach help when they dial 9-1-1 during natural disasters. The legislation will also ensure 9-1-1 dispatchers are recognized as protective service workers to ensure their job classification appropriately recognizes the lifesaving nature of their work. This legislation is also co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Ted Budd (R-N.C.).
“When an emergency happens, 911 dispatchers are the very first people to respond, providing critical assistance to callers in real time and coordinating the response," said Heinrich. "Our 911 workers are essential, and we must provide them with the resources that they need to work quickly and efficiently. That includes revising their federal Bureau of Labor Statistics classification to properly recognize them as first responders. This will ensure they can access the important benefits they need and deserve.”

“During natural disasters, reliable communications networks save lives. This bipartisan legislation will ensure people are able to connect to 9-1-1 during major disasters and improve the resiliency of our 9-1-1 system against outages and disruptions,” said Klobuchar. “This legislation also makes important updates to the classification of 9-1-1 dispatchers, recognizing their critical roles during times of crisis.”

“Ensuring Americans can reach help when they dial 9-1-1 during natural disasters is paramount,” said Blackburn. “The Emergency Reporting Act takes necessary steps to prevent 9-1-1 service disruptions, properly recognize dispatchers for their lifesaving work, and further study how we can make improvements to the 9-1-1 emergency response system.”

“During natural disasters, it is especially important that folks who are in need of emergency assistance are able to contact 9-1-1for help, ” said Thune. “Our bill would provide some much-needed reforms to the emergency response system by increasing its resiliency, classifying 9-1-1 professionals as first responders, and reducing obstacles for those attempting to call 9-1-1.”

This bill combines two bills: the 911 SAVES Act, led in the House by U.S. Representative Norma Torres (D-Calif.), and the Emergency Reporting Act, led in the House by Representative Doris Matsui (D-Calif.).
“America’s 9-1-1 dispatchers are vital to creating strong, safe communities. and they deserved to be rightfully recognized as first responders. As a former 9-1-1 dispatcher, I know that these heroes are first responders in every sense of the phrase, often answering the phone during the worst moments of a person’s life. My bipartisan 9-1-1SAVES Act reclassifies 9-1-1 professionals as first responders and recognizes them for the work they do every day to save lives and keep the public safe. I am glad to see my bill is included in the Senate’s Enhancing First Response Act, which will make our nation’s 9-1-1 emergency response system more responsive to the needs of all Americans. I urge all my colleagues in both the House and Senate to join us in giving 9-1-1 professionals the resources they need and the recognition they earn every day,” said Torres.

“In the face of a life-threatening emergency, the ability to call 911 is often a matter of life and death. That’s why we must ensure those in danger can rely on our emergency communications networks to get help when and where it is needed,” said Matsui. “The Emergency Reporting Act gives the FCC the tools to support our state and local partners as they prepare for, respond to, and learn from major disasters – strengthening the resiliency of these networks to handle the worst disasters.”

Specifically, the Enhancing First Response Act would:
  • Require the FCC to issue a report after major natural disasters on the extent to which people were unable to reach 9-1-1 during the disaster and subsequent recovery efforts, and make recommendations to improve the resiliency of 9-1-1 systems to prevent future service disruptions;
  • Require the FCC to study the unreported 9-1-1 outages and develop recommendations to improve outage reporting and communication between mobile carriers experiencing network outages and 9-1-1 centers;
  • Update the classification of 9-1-1 dispatchers from clerical workers to protective service workers in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) to better reflect the life-saving work they perform each day. The SOC is a tool used by federal agencies to classify the workforce into useful, occupational categories;
  • Require the FCC to report on the extent to which multi-line telephone system manufacturers and vendors have complied with Kari’s Law, and requires the manufacturers of multi-line telephone systems to create systems that allow callers to reach 9-1-1 without dialing a prefix or postfix.