The term “brown out” to describe unstaffed units has been banned by the Seattle Fire Department’s chief because the term is racist.
According to KTTH, Rantz referenced a memo from Chief Harold Scoggins to the department dated June 13 that stated the department “will no longer use the term ‘brown out’ when describing department apparatus that isn’t in service.”
“Units unstaffed” will be the new word.
Rantz said, “Brown out” refers to situations when firefighters or other emergency units go unstaffed, adding that when Seattle “sidelined unvaccinated firefighters, units have routinely gone unstaffed.”
Citing unspecified “concerns,” Scoggins claims the term is offensive to communities of color.
It isn’t, however. Furthermore, the SFD has yet to present any documentation to back up the assertion.
The staff was caught off guard by the memo. They had no idea the chief was attempting to make the word “brown out” unpleasant.
Here’s what Scoggins wrote:
“Concerns were raised that the term ‘brown out’ has negative connotations for communities of color. This change has been made to reaffirm SFD’s commitment and mission to serve all communities with dignity and respect,.
“Any formal or informal communications coming forward, whether in department emails, memos, etc., uses ‘units unstaffed’ to refer to engine, trucks, assistance cars, medic units, etc., that are unavailable due to staffing,” the chief instructed.
On Wednesday, Rantz tweeted that SFD told him “they received one complaint but they won’t explain how the term is racist”
SFD didn’t respond to questions about who made the “brown out” complaint and why it’s offensive, in Rantz’s initial report.
Apart from emergency staffing shortages, the expressions “brown out” and “brownout” have other connotations.
According to DirectEnergy.com, a “high electricity demand that is near or beyond a utility’s production capacity,” causes the utility to “limit the supply of electricity to some locations to avoid a blackout.”
A “brown out” occurs after a drinking incident, the Urban Dictionary says, when “you don’t remember something until someone brings it up; it’s not a complete blackout, but partial, because you remember after someone refreshes you.”