MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) — In 2022, 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers will officially be considered first responders in the state of Alabama.

On April 18, Governor Ivey signed into law HB414. The law will go into effect July 1, 2022.

Previously, 9-1-1 calltakers and dispatchers were considered clerks, but Huntsville-Madison County 9-1-1 CEO Ernie Blair says they are first, first responders when someone needs public safety services.

“These people are much more than clerks because they’re making split second decisions,” Blair said. “People’s lives are literally in their hands. These are the first first responders.”

“Nothing can happen in a public safety response without coming through this building, and be in these people’s hands,” Blair continued.

Blair said during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, 9-1-1 personnel weren’t eligible for early vaccines because they didn’t have “first responder” designation.

“We didn’t fall as as either a first responder, a health care worker, or a educator,” Blair told News 19. “And so literally we went to ADPH in the health department to get our shots. We were told you’re not eligible.”

Blair says he is glad the telecommunicators he works with are not only getting proper recognition for their work, but hopes it will eliminate future inequities like the ones through the pandemic.

The bill also establish a mandatory certification program to train public safety telecommunicators.

“There are many counties out there that there’s very little training, and there’s required training for manicurist hairstylist, but none for 911 call takers and dispatchers,” Blair concluded. “So there’s a minimum standard now, which we’re very proud of. So now all of the counties will have the same training.”

The Huntsville-Madison County 9-1-1 System is looking to hire calltakers and dispatchers. Click here to apply.