SPRINGFIELD - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich signed legislation today that protects volunteer emergency medical technicians (EMTs), ambulance personnel and other fire services volunteers from losing their jobs when they take time off to assist in local emergencies.
“Many of our courageous men and women who at times risk their own lives to protect their neighbors are volunteers,” said Governor Blagojevich. “Many communities depend on volunteers for their emergency services – who may be late or miss work because they assisted at the scene of an emergency. We need to protect our volunteers while they’re protecting us.”
House Bill 594 provides volunteer EMTs and other volunteer fire services workers with job protection and allows employers to request reasonable verification from the employee to prevent false claims. This move expands the Volunteer Firefighter Job Protection Act, signed into law by Gov. Blagojevich last summer, which protects the jobs of volunteer firefighters in communities with less than 3,500 residents.
The new law, sponsored by Sen. Mike Jacobs (D-Moline) and Rep. Mike Boland (D-Moline), will be particularly helpful in rural communities, where volunteers are most needed.
“I commend Governor Blagojevich for signing this law that balances the needs of the community at large and those of local businesses. Emergencies most often require immediate action on the part of local emergency workers and small communities throughout the state need these volunteers to prevent loss of life or property,” said Sen. Jacobs.
“Many families rely on two incomes for support, and as a result, enlisting local emergency workers has become much more difficult,” said Rep. Boland. “In these times of continued emphasis on emergency preparedness and response, this law will make sure that emergency workers are not forced to decide whether they should respond to an emergency or risk losing the paying job that supports their family.”
Nearly 70 percent of Illinois’ municipalities, particularly small towns and rural areas, rely heavily on volunteer firefighters, EMTs, ambulance drivers and attendants and other first responders.
"This new law will dramatically help volunteer fire departments throughout Illinois recruit and retain firefighters and EMTs," said John Swan, president of the Illinois Firefighters Association. "We've already seen how last year's Volunteer Firefighters Job Protection Act has helped many departments bring on new volunteers and keep the ones they have because the volunteers don't have to be afraid of being disciplined or fired for being late or missing work for helping at an emergency scene. Now they'll also be able to better recruit and retain their EMTs."
Volunteer EMTs, paramedics and firefighters assist in providing immediate medical attention in emergencies, which include automobile accidents, heart attacks, drowning, childbirth, gunshot wounds and fire emergencies. They also provide vital pre-hospital attention and care for the sick or injured and transport them safely to hospitals or medical facilities.