Mercer County 911 Dispatchers classified as first responders, hope national movements are made in 2020

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PRINCETON, WV (WVNS) – It is a behind the scenes job that people rely on for help or reassurance, many times in their most terrifying moments.

“Mercer County 911, what’s your emergency?” is a phrase senior Mercer County telecommunicator Michael King says thousands of times a year, not knowing the circumstances of what is on the other side of the line.

“It can definitely be very stressful when someone calls in and is very upset,” King saad. “You know these are people calling in on the worst day of their lives, so what we do is try to be as calm as we can for our caller so we can get them help.”

King must accurately send police, paramedics, and firefighters to people who need help fast. It is not the average desk job; still, King’s career is viewed the same as a secretary or office clerk according to a federal database. But not to Mercer County Commissioners, like Greg Puckett.

At the end of last year, commissioners voted in favor of a support resolution that will classify Mercer County 9-1-1 operators as first responders.

“There are lives at stake,” Pucket stressed. “When you’ve got somebody who is literally that first phone call in a panic trying to diffuse the situation, they need to be able to get the same benefits the same sort of opportunities as those in the field. “

A bill that would do just that called the 911 Save Act passed, in the U.S. House last year. Telecommunicators like King are hoping reclassification efforts can continue in 2020 to give 911 operators the respect they deserve.

“Even though we don’t go out there on the scene, we’re the first voice and the first person that someone in an emergency makes contact with,” King stressed.

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