Duty to act: What does your SOP say?
The debate arises as to who has a legal duty to act and what does that obligation actually mean
By Anthony Mangeri
American Military University
There have been several stories of public safety personnel, on and off duty, failing to meet the response expectations of their community. The incident in the District of Columbia involving a 77-year old man who died outside a fire station brought into focus emergency responders’ legal duty to act versus expectations by the communities we serve to aid those who ask for help.
The term duty to act is a legal term that defines an individual’s or organizations legal requirement to take action to prevent harm to a person or the community as a whole. The debate arises as to who has a legal duty to act and what does that obligation actually mean. More importantly, there can be a conflict between the legal obligation to respond and the community’s expectations.
Firefighters and emergency responders are hired, trained, and funded by the community to respond to the public’s request for assistance in a time of emergency. A department’s mission statement may establish a legal duty or relationship between the fire or rescue department and the community.
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