TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Outgoing Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried asked Gov. Ron DeSantis to reclassify Florida’s 911 dispatchers, Department of Agriculture law enforcement officers, and Florida Forestry personnel as first responders, following Hurricane Ian.
Fried’s letter said the three groups of state personnel had responded to and/or been impacted by Hurricane Ian’s damage and that unlike other law enforcement officers, those state employees had not received storm relief checks.
“In October, you stood with Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Dane Eagle on Sanibel Island to present $1,000 checks to first responders assisting in Hurricane Ian recovery efforts,” Fried wrote in part.
She said 911 dispatchers and operators, as well as nearly 250 Florida Forestry Services personnel, plus Agriculture Law Enforcement officers had helped with search and rescue and response to the hurricane, but “were neglected as well” when it came to recovery assistance.
Fried said Florida was one of 32 states in the country that do not treat 911 operators as first responders, and that she hoped a renewed legislative effort to address this change could be enacted in the 2023 legislative session.
Her letter cites two previous bills that failed to pass in 2021 which would have designated 911 operators as first responders. Fried also requested compensation like what was given to Sanibel Island personnel be made available to the staff from FDACS.
WFLA.com has reached out to the governor’s office to ask if it’s a move being considered by DeSantis or the state legislature.