The state’s “Good Samaritan Law“ will expand to protect emergency-services volunteers in more circumstances, thanks to teamwork between West Seattle advocates and legislators. The bill has passed both houses of the Legislature. It’s explained in this announcement as:
House Bill 1209 expands Washington’s Good Samaritan Law by providing that a person is not liable for any act or omission while providing volunteer nonmedical care or assistance at the scene of an emergency or disaster, unless the act or omission rises to the level of gross negligence, or willful or wanton misconduct.
The main sponsor, Pierce County Rep. Dan Bronoske – who happens to also be a firefighter – explains, “Say a flood is approaching and the only way to help you escape is to break down a door or windows, response teams would be able to take that emergency step without fear of personal liability. That does not mean you would be left without financial help like insurance or disaster aid, just that the emergency volunteers responding would be protected too.”
Key advocacy came from the volunteers of the Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs; West Seattle-residing Hubs advocate Cindi Barker tells WSB they first approached West Seattle state Rep. Eileen Cody, who in turn worked with Rep. Bronoske to make the bill happen (Cody and West Seattle Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon are among the co-sponsors). Barker tells WSB, “The Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs have been aware of this issue for several years; the question of liability protection often comes up when we do outreach about emergency preparedness and talking about helping our communities after a disaster. The State Attorney General’s Office had provided us information that a general response after an earthquake would not be covered by the Good Samaritan provisions because when it was written, it addressed medical responses only. Even most recently, during the COVID response, some people have held back from volunteering, worried about the liability. So we decided to fix that gap.”
Next step will be for Gov. Inslee to sign the bill into law; no date for that is set yet.