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Report: 'Brown out' banned by Seattle Fire Dept. chief over racism concerns — after one complaint. The term refers to a partial staffing shutdown.
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Report: 'Brown out' banned by Seattle Fire Dept. chief over racism concerns — after one complaint. The term refers to a partial staffing shutdown.

The term "brown out" — i.e. a partial staffing shutdown — has been banned by the chief of the Seattle Fire Department because it may be a racist term, according to a KTTH-AM report from conservative commentator Jason Rantz.

There was one complaint about the term, Rantz added.

What are the details?

Rantz cited a June 13 memo his show obtained from Chief Harold Scoggins to the department saying they “will no longer use the term ‘brown out’ when describing department apparatus that aren’t in service,” KTTH reported.

The new term will be “units unstaffed," Rantz reported.

"Brown out” refers to situations when firefighters or other emergency units go unstaffed, Rantz said, adding that when Seattle "sidelined unvaccinated firefighters, units have routinely gone unstaffed."

“Concerns were raised that the term ‘brown out’ has negative connotations for communities of color," Scoggins added, according to the KTTH report. "This change has been made to reaffirm SFD’s commitment and mission to serve all communities with dignity and respect."

Scoggins also told SFD staffers to make sure that "any formal or informal communications going forward, whether in department emails, memos, etc., uses ‘units unstaffed’ to refer to engine, trucks, aid cars, medic units, etc., that are unavailable due to staffing," the station reported.

While Rantz said in his initial report that SFD didn't respond to questions about who made the "brown out" complaint and why it's offensive, he tweeted Wednesday that SFD told him "they received one complaint — ONE!! — but they won’t explain how the term is racist (probably because it’s not)."

More from Rantz's KTTH report:

The term “brown out” does not have “negative connotations for communities of color.” This is a wholly contrived issue that the chief is using to signal his wokeness. It’s as if he was under pressure to show his commitment to “equity” but couldn’t think of any that are woke enough, so he made up an issue for the pats on the back he’ll no doubt receive[.]

A cursory internet search yields zero stories nationally or internationally with claims the term is problematic. While I believe there could be one or two race-baiting extremists who make this claim, it’s not based on any kind of reality.
With very few exceptions, the term itself has literally nothing to do with race. Just because “brown” is in it, doesn’t mean that it’s inherently racial.

“Blackouts” aren’t offensive because it includes “black” in the phrase; it merely means lights are out.

Anything else?

The terms "brown out" and "brownout" carry meanings apart from emergency staffing shortages.

"Brownout" also refers to a "high electricity demand that is near or above a utility’s production capacity. When this occurs, the utility may reduce the flow of electricity to certain areas to prevent a blackout," according to DirectEnergy.com.

The Urban Dictionary says a "brown out" occurs after a drinking episode and "you don't remember something until someone brings it up. It's not a complete blackout, but partial, because you remember once someone refreshes you."

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