Atlanta City Council looks to support firefighters injured off-duty

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Atlanta Fire Department Lt. Mark Quick was off of work and driving through DeKalb County when he came across the scene of a two-car collision on the road.

It was before other first responders had arrived and, without hesitation, Quick stopped to help.

That’s when Quick was hit by an on-coming vehicle.

Quick was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital where he spent more than two weeks in the intensive care unit and three more months at the Shepard Center recovering from injuries, including severe damage to his facial tissues, broken ribs, a fractured voice box and a collapsed lung.

Because he was off-duty from his job with Atlanta Fire & Rescue, workman’s compensation has not covered Quick during his recovery.

Atlanta City Council is considering an ordinance that would change that.

“I don’t consider myself a hero, nothing like that,” he said. “But that is who we are. I have a certain belief that the purpose of life is to serve others. It may be my family, may be your family or just anybody.

“That’s the reason why we joined this profession.”

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Now an outpatient at the center, Quick is enrolled in an aggressive physical therapy program designed to help people with spinal cord and brain injuries — the cost of about $7,000 for four months, paid completely out-of-pocket.

Quick said when he dedicated his life to being a firefighter, he knew the job wouldn’t stop after he hung up his uniform for the day. But for first responders like himself, who sometimes respond to the scene of an emergency when they’re off the clock, nothing presses pause on the risks they face while assisting others in need.

The proposal being considered by city council would extend worker’s compensation benefits to cover expenses in the aftermath of off-duty injuries like Quick’s.

Council member Andrea Boone introduced the legislation that has since stalled in committee at the request of the mayor’s office.

Atlanta Firefighters Association President Nate Bailey said that the likelihood of injury-sustaining incidents happening to off-duty firefighters is low — only three that are known of in the last 20 years, including Quick’s.

But support of the proposal would send a strong statement to first responders, Bailey said.

“There’s only a few cities that provide this,” he said. “So it would put Atlanta ahead of a lot of cities when it comes to progressive legislation for first responders.”

Bailey said most firefighters instinctually rush to help off-duty without weighing the risk of getting hurt.

“At least if something happens that’s tragic,” he said, “you know the city will be there to take care of you.”

Boone introduced the legislation in mid-April, not long after initial conversations with Bailey and other leaders in the profession. But it has since been stuck in the Finance and Executive Committee, where council members eager to get it passed have been met with concern from city officials.

The legislation has been held in committee for two meetings. City Commissioner of Human Resources Tarlesha Williams Smith told council members when they met last on May 10 that the bill “creates a lot of challenges” and also may expand the conversation to cover other types of first responders.

The city’s Chief Finance Officer Mohamed Balla said it may not even be ready to be passed after two more weeks of discussion.

“I don’t want to commit because this is a much bigger lift than initially thought,” he said. “...This does come at a cost for the city.”

After his accident, Quick and his family have juggled the burden of his medical bills. He needed extensive surgery to his face that his insurance won’t cover. Since the accident, he’s used up all of his sick and vacation leave and said he hasn’t been able to go back to his regular work schedule.

The firefighters association set up a fundraiser to help cover treatment.

Quick testified multiple times in front of council members advocating for the policy change.

“I love this city, and if the opportunity rose again, I would do it again,” he said.

How to help

You can help Lt. Mark Quick cover his medical expenses by clicking here or going to