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PO - Calarco - PR

Posted on: June 9, 2021

First Responder Status for Emergency Dispatchers: The First, First Responders

A group of legislators and employees stand outside with a dispatcher holding a proclamation.

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. – Presiding Officer Rob Calarco joined his colleagues and partners in organized labor on June 8 to advocate for the passage of Senate Bill 7121, as its Assembly partner 07366, passed earlier this week. If enacted, all public safety dispatchers, emergency responders, emergency operators, emergency complaint operators, and emergency services dispatchers in NYS would be recognized as first responders under State statute.  

Once they are officially classified as first responders, these essential workers will be eligible for additional training opportunities, which will make them that much more effective in their jobs, furthering their ability to keep Suffolk residents safe. This legislation will benefit public safety dispatchers, emergency responders, emergency operators, emergency complaint operators, and emergency service dispatchers.

Stephanie Bukowinski, an Emergency Service Dispatcher Trainee at Suffolk County FRES, recently assisted in successfully delivering a healthy baby girl over the phone. When a call came in from a woman in labor who was in the car with her husband asking for an ambulance, Stephanie convinced the couple to pull over to safety and proceeded to give instructions to the pair as they waited. Shortly after, the baby girl was born, and reports indicate that the family and baby are doing well.

Stories like Stephanie’s remind us that this kind of essential work is performed by Suffolk AME members every day. For this reason, our emergency public safety telecommunicators need and deserve first responder status. 

“I am proud to stand in support of this important piece of legislation and urge my colleagues in the State Legislature to act swiftly in its passage. These front-line public employees deserve to be classified as the first responders that they truly are, and I am hopeful that our joint advocacy will help push this measure over the finish line,” said Presiding Officer Calarco. 

“I have heard countless stories and spoken directly with individuals working as Suffolk County Public Safety Dispatchers and Emergency Operators.  These are the individuals who are there for residents; many times who are placing the worst call of their lives,” said Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn.  “The work of our first, first responders, is critical to ensuring a rapid response of our emergency services. Our emergency dispatchers and operators assist callers, by keeping them calm and talking them through life-saving procedures.  Stephanie Bukowinski, an emergency dispatch operator, responded to a call from a mother in labor.  She was caring, competent, skilled, and ready to talk the expectant parents through what they needed to do in order to deliver a healthy baby.  It is examples like these that highlight the importance of recognizing Emergency Dispatchers as First Responders. ”

“Emergency telecommunications workers are literally the first responders on the front lines answering residents’ calls for assistance.  They ensure not only that our police, fire and EMS workers have accurate and timely information to be dispatched appropriately, but that in a time of crisis, callers are met with a calm and assuring voice on the other end of the phone,” stated Legislator Susan A. Berland, Majority Leader of the Suffolk County Legislature. “These professionals deserve to be acknowledged for their life-saving work and afforded the same support, benefits and training opportunities that other first responders have access to. I applaud my colleagues, Presiding Officer Calarco and Deputy Presiding Officer Hahn, as well as the Members of AME for bringing attention to this important issue and I stand with them in urging our state elected officials to pass this measure before the end of the 2021 legislative session.”

"Our emergency operators and dispatchers, the voices behind the radios, are the true first, first responders and an integral part of our public safety network. I want to thank all who had a hand in bringing forward this critical piece of legislation that grants them the support and recognition they rightfully deserve,” said Legislator Tom Donnelly, retired Decorated FDNY Lieutenant, a 37-year volunteer member of the Deer Park Fire Department, and Chair of the Public Safety Committee. 

“The role our emergency service and public safety dispatchers play in keeping our communities safe is vital. Their efforts over the past year in helping us come out on the other side of a pandemic have been paramount, and they deserve to be acknowledged as the first responders that they are. I whole-heartedly support this initiative and urge my colleagues at the state level to act as soon as possible,” said Legislator Jason Richberg. 

Legislator Tom Cilmi, Chairman of the Legislature’s Fire, Rescue and Emergency Medical Services and Preparedness Committee, said, “Public safety dispatchers are, for all practical purposes, almost always the very first responders, gathering critical life-saving information, providing calming instructions to callers, and ensuring that the proper personnel and equipment are dispatched to the scene as quickly as possible.  Their essential work is constantly stressful and demanding; it requires ongoing training to ensure not only the safety and well-being of those they serve, but their own well-being as well.  I strongly support the passage of A07366 and S7121, which will give these heroes the recognition they deserve and the ongoing training they need.”

“Emergency Operators and Dispatchers are undoubtedly the first responders of first responders, serving at the center of emergency events, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week,” said Suffolk AME President Daniel C. Levler. “These essential emergency workers exercise quick-thinking decisions, counseling, and guidance that frequently makes the critical difference between life and death before help arrives. Just recently, Stephanie Burkowinski, a member of Suffolk County’s Fire Rescue and Emergency Services, helped a woman deliver her baby during a 911 call. On behalf of our 230 Emergency Operators in Suffolk County, I urge state lawmakers to pass this important legislation into law. Texas and California have already passed similar bills in their states and it’s time for the State of New York to do the same to support these essential workers immediately.” 

"New York's emergency operators and dispatchers provide invaluable services to us all. It is long past time we remove existing roadblocks that prevent these essential emergency workers from providing the full range of support they can give and denying them of benefits they deserve. Without question, all public safety dispatchers, emergency responders, emergency operators, emergency complaint operators, and emergency services dispatchers are first responders, and it is crucial to the safety and welfare of New York State that they are recognized as such. I am proud to sponsor this important piece of legislation and encourage my colleagues in the Senate and the Assembly to pass this bill as expeditiously as possible,” said Senate Bill Sponsor, Senator John E. Brooks. 

"We have reached a critical mass of support to pass the First Responder bill in Albany and we need to keep pushing to get it through this year's legislative session," said Assemblyman Joe DeStefano, a former AME member and emergency telecommunicator who has been an early supporter of the measure. "Our emergency operators serve on the front line of public safety and deserve recognition as First Responders."

Pictured above: Presiding Officer Rob Calarco, Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn, Majority Leader Susan Berland, Legislator Jason Richberg, Legislator Steven Flotteron, Suffolk AME President Daniel Levler, Stephanie Bukowinski, an Emergency Service Dispatcher Trainee at Suffolk County FRES, Employees from the Suffolk County Department of Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Services.

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