Nearly one year after the First Responder program launched in Merritt, the fire department is set to receive protection from disease exposure, the B.C. government announced on Thursday.

The initiative will also help protect ambulance services and others involved in emergency response.

The Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act is set to come into effect on March 2, after its approval last May.

The initiative was drafted to address the heightened risk in emergency services of coming into contact with people’s bodily substances.

President of Ambulance Paramedics of BC Bronwyn Barter said the legislation will help.

“[We] are proud of the work we provide to British Columbians every day,” he said. “This is an important step for B.C.’s paramedics.”

If an emergency worker comes into contact with someone’s fluid, a court order can be issued to obtain a sample of the person from whom the contact was made.

Without the sample, the worker could face months of uncertainty about whether they have come into contact with a communicable disease.

“In the last year, we’ve heard how important this legislation is to our first responders,” Minister of Jobs Pat Bell said in a release. “These people put their lives on the line to save ours so it’s important we protect them in any way we can. While voluntary testing is always encouraged as a first step, it’s nice to know that if they need it, first responders can get peace of mind through this legislation.”

The provision is also given to crime victims to apply for testing orders.

The B.C. government has assumed responsibility for paying for the tests.

More information about the legislation can be found at after March 2.