• City of Tacoma QA
  • City of Tacoma OpenData

Non-Emergent Lift Assist

Frequently Asked Questions  

The following are responses to frequently asked questions regarding the new non-emergent lift assistance program.


What is the purpose of the non-emergent lift assistance program?

The intent of the non-emergent lift assistance program is to reduce the number of requests from licensed care facilities for lift assistance with patients that have no apparent injuries or medical needs.  


What is the non-emergent lift assistance penalty charge?

Amended Ordinance No. 28550, passed by the City Council on November 20, 2018, added a new section 3.11.070 to the Tacoma Municipal Code, “Penalty for non-emergent lift assistance at licensed care facilities,” which became effective February 1, 2019.


As of January 1, 2020, the authorized penalty charge shall be $850 per incident without regard to the number of prior incidents.

Which facilities does the penalty apply?

Licensed care facilities include skilled nursing facilities, and assisted living facilities. Registered adult family homes or private residences are exempt from this ordinance and are not subject to the penalty charge for non-emergent lift assistance. Also exempt are residents designated with "Independent Living" status while residing in an Assisted Living Facility. 

Facility Type

Penalty Charge

No Charge

Skilled Nursing Facility


Assisted Living Facility


Independent Living Facility


Registered Adult Family Homes



Private Residences




Why the penalty charge?

The non-emergent lift assist penalty charge will be assessed to licensed care facilities each time Tacoma Fire Department (TFD) personnel help pick up a resident that has fallen, and the resident has no apparent injuries or emergent medical needs.


A lift assist requires no additional medical evaluation or transport to an emergency room, only to lift the resident from one surface (i.e. the floor) to another (i.e. a bed or chair). The penalty charge is intended to be a disincentive for the practice of using publicly-funded emergency services to provide non-emergent assistance to a licensed care facility. 


Why is the penalty charge being proposed now?

TFD has worked for several years to communicate the proper use of 911 to the management and staff of local licensed care facilities. Since 2014 our Medical Services Officer and FD Cares staff has attended the monthly meetings of Pierce County Care Transitions Consortium (PCCTC) to share information about the proper use of 911, and in repeated conversations and presentations, that 911 should only be called when a resident:

  • Has an acute/serious, life-threatening medical condition or complaint;
  • Is medically unstable; or
  • Has an immediate health risk.

As the workload of the department increases it has become necessary to discourage private businesses from relying on public emergency services for non-emergent work. When TFD personnel are at a long term care facility performing a non-emergent lift assist, they are not available to respond for a true emergency.


What have we done to promote proper 911 use with licensed care facilities?

  • Distributed DSHS letters of direction about the proper use of 911 at monthly PCCTC meetings.
  • Distributed DSHS letters of direction to the staff of licensed care facilities when inappropriate use of 911 has occurred.
  • TFD Paramedic Captains have visited licensed care facilities and spoken to staff and management about the proper use of 911.
  • Provided in-service training for clinical staff at skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities that included guidelines for when to contact 911.
  • Communicated with care staff and stakeholder coalitions about the ordinance, including copies of FAQs.

When to dial 911 for emergency medical services?

If I still have questions, who can I contact?

Please contact Medical Services Officer Jeff Bambrick at (253) 973-0095 or jbambrick@cityoftacoma.org.