KULA, Hawaii (KHON2) — The Maui County Council has passed a resolution urging lawmakers to recognize emergency dispatchers as first responders.

Councilmembers acknowledged that they do not have the authority to change emergency dispatchers’ official status.

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“I’d like to move forward the issue of properly recognizing emergency dispatchers because it has been on the back burner for too long,” said Councilmember Yuki Lei K. Sugimura.

Sugimura holds the council seat for the Upcountry Maui residency area and chairs the Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee.

Sugimura pointed out that the Hawai’i State Senate adopted a resolution last year that urged counties to recognize dispatchers as first responders.

“Emergency services personnel are so important, and they should all be fairly recognized for all they do in the line of their time-sensitive, life-saving work.” added Sugimura.

Sugimura introduced Resolution 23-29, FD1 which states:

“911 emergency services dispatchers provide an integral basis for effective public safety response and often can prevent incidents from worsening before field responders arrive.”

Testimony by current and former police and fire personnel and members of the public was provided in order to clarify the high-stress work performed by dispatchers and to highlight the vital component dispatchers play in the county’s public-safety system.

The job-related stress experienced by emergency dispatchers make them a part of the first responders world, according to the council. Simply because they are not physically on scene for the incidents on which they work does not mean they are not impacted psychologically and emotionally by the trauma.

“I would like to thank all of our first responders for their role in the critical infrastructure of the public safety system,” said Sugimura.

Sugimura said he believes that emergency dispatchers make the difference between a positive and a negative outcome for many of the emergency calls received.

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“I urge the administration to act on this issue and give our emergency dispatchers the recognition that they deserve,” added Sugimura.