Washington State Registered Emergency Workers

Volunteers can serve in certain defined roles of disaster response and be covered by Chapter 118-04 WAC. The state of Washington offers good protection for volunteers in bona fide roles under official response leadership, free of charge. The law provides certain coverage for injuries, losses and liability.

It's important for NERO captains and other NERO participants to bear in mind that they are individuals acting (or not) of their own volition, not accountable to or protected by any particular authority or jurisdiction. They don't need to be REWs, although if they go on to take CERT training, they may become REWs under CERT.

Someone who is an REW is still only protected by it while enrolled in an active mission, under a number issued by WA Military Dept, and led by an incident commander.

State of Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 118.04

Provisions for Volunteer Emergency Workers

This WAC gives certain protections and immunity from liability to volunteer emergency workers who perform certain responsibilities and tasks for a disaster/emergency mission or training in accordance with per-approved protocols and standards. Failure of the emergency worker to comply with the rules and instructions set forth by the on-scene official will result in loss of protection under this chapter of the law.

It is the responsibility of all Vashon disaster volunteers to read and understand WAC 118.04 which is on the internet at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=118-04. Section.200 is particularly important and is summarized here:

118.04.200 –Personal Responsibilities of Emergency Workers (EW’s)

  1. EW’s shall be responsible to certify to the authorized officials registering them and using their services that they are aware of and will comply with all applicable responsibilities and requirements set forth in these rules.
    1. Notify the on-scene official if you have been using any prescribed or other drug or substance that has the potential to render you impaired, unfit, or unable to carry out your assignment
    2. Participation by EW’s in any mission, training or other authorized activity is not allowed while under the influence of or while using narcotics, any controlled substance, or alcohol.
    3. If the EW will be driving a vehicle, vessel or aircraft as required by their assignment, the EW must possess a valid and appropriate operator’s license and required vehicle insurance.
    4. Use of private vehicles, vessels, boats or aircraft by emergency workers is any mission or training without liability insurance required by RCW chapter 46.29 is prohibited unless specifically directed otherwise by an official in accordance with RCW 38.52.180. EW’s shall adhere to all traffic laws. This provision does not apply to qualified operators of emergency vehicles such as fire and police vehicles.
  2. EW’s must comply with all other requirements as determined by the officials using their services.
  3. When reporting to the scene, EW’s have the responsibility to inform the on-scene official whether they are mentally and physically fit for their assigned duties. EW’s reporting as not fit for their current assignment may request a less demanding assignment appropriate to their current capabilities.
  4. EW’s are responsible to check in and out with the on-scene official and to complete all required record keeping and verbal/written reporting.

WA Good Samaritan Law

Washington Good Samaritan law protects the general public during some activities even outside declared emergencies. Some aspects of the law were  being reconsidered in 2021's legislative session:

The current Washington State Good Samaritan Law covers only medical aid given in times of a disaster. There is no provision for the general population to have Good Samaritan protection should they want to help their neighbors in the response to a significant event outside of a clear medical context.

In 2021, a new bill has been sponsored to add an addition to the existing law and is currently moving through the House. The requested addition extends the existing law to include non-medical aid given in times of disaster. Important note: this would be beneficial in response to all hazards, including flooding, landslides, and wildfires, and is not specific only to an earthquake scenario.

Key Points:
  • Emergency Managers throughout the State of Washington work to help their residents prepare for disaster and build community resilience as their resources will be overwhelmed in a major disaster.
  • The Good Samaritan Law as written currently covers only medical assistance. In a major disaster, if neighbors are going to help neighbors, as is promoted by emergency management across the state, then the state should extend the law and its liability coverage to those volunteers.
  • CERT programs, medical and first responders, as well other emergency worker volunteer teams will NOT be affected by this change, and will provide those teams with more willing and protected people who will help them in a disaster.
  • There is precedent by other States for this addition to the Good Samaritan Law.

To read the bill (HB1209) and track its progress: Washington State Legislature

To write a testimony in support: https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/bill/1209

West Seattle Be Prepared's Cindi Barker is a local resource for more information on this.