The Seattle City Council unanimously passed legislation granting legal protections to Seattle firefighters while they’re responding to emergencies.
SEATTLE – The Seattle City Council unanimously passed Council Bill 120549 granting legal protections to Seattle firefighters while they’re responding to emergencies. The legislation was sponsored by Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1 – West Seattle and South Park) and Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis (District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia).
The Seattle Fire Department (SFD) has reported incidents of people aggressively interfering with firefighters while they attempt to perform dangerous and life-saving work. That includes situations where people have tried to prevent firefighters from extinguishing fires or threatened to physically attack firefighters while they are trying to save lives. One such incident involved an aggressive bystander throwing rocks at firefighters and paramedic personnel while they transported a patient on a gurney.
Seattle law already protects many other city employees from being interfered with while responding to emergencies. However, Seattle’s firefighters and other first responders in the fire department were left out. This legislation fixes that, granting firefighters those same protections. It is supported by the Seattle Fire Department and frontline firefighters from IAF Local 27.
The legislation was strengthened today with three friendly amendments from Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda. Together, they:
- Ensure people will not be charged for obstructing their own care, such as when they are revived by naloxone and may be disoriented and violent;
- Reinforce the expectation that police will consult with the Seattle Fire Department before engaging with people at the scene of a fire department emergency; and,
- Mandate that the legislation be evaluated to make sure it’s not having unintended consequences, such as racially disparate charges.
“No employee should fear for their safety from bystanders as they deliver life-saving services. When firefighters are carrying heavy and difficult to manage equipment to put out a fire or kneeling over to resuscitate a patient, they are particularly vulnerable. Unfortunately, that vulnerability leads not only to risks to themselves, but delays that have a disparate impact on vulnerable communities they serve, said Councilmember Lisa Herbold.
“This is very important legislation that will assist in improving safety to our firefighters as we respond 24/7 to fires, medical emergencies and many other types of incidents. Over the past several years our firefighters have been physically assaulted or verbally threatened while trying to serve those in need – who are often the most vulnerable in our community. When we have to delay our response because of threats, it can cause fires to increase in size or medical conditions to deteriorate. I want to thank the Mayor’s Office, the City Council and the community for their ongoing support of the Seattle Fire Department,” said Seattle Fire Department Chief Harold D. Scoggins.
“Seattle Fire Fighters support this ordinance to ensure that we can provide life-saving emergency services without interruption when called to help. This change will allow fire fighters to focus our full attention on the job at hand, so we can save lives, and remain safe,” said IAFF Local 27 President Kenny Stuart.
The legislation now heads to the Mayor for his signature and will take effect 30 days after it’s approved. If it’s not signed by the Mayor within 10 days, then the new law will go into effect 30 days afterwards. The Mayor also has the option to veto the legislation.