Barletta Steers Authorization of Urban Search & Rescue to Passage
Click here or on image for video of Rep. Barletta leading floor debate on passage of authorization of Urban Search & Rescue teams.
WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) today managed floor debate as the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that authorizes the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) system, while protecting team members from liability and preserving their jobs while they are serving. The House approved S. 2971, authored by Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, by a vote of 405-to-7. The bill is nearly identical to language contained in Barletta’s own legislation, H.R. 1471, the FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act, which passed the House in February 2016 and remains in the hands of the Senate. With House passage of an amended S. 2971, the bill must return to the Senate for its approval.
“The challenge has been that when these team members are federalized, they do not have clarity on who would be responsible if they were injured or even killed while performing their jobs,” Barletta said while managing the House floor. “It is amazing that we ask these men and women to go into collapsed structures to search for trapped survivors, risking life and limb, without providing them with clarity when it comes to liability and injuries. The stories of the selfless heroism of these men and women are numerous and humbling. Their work is tireless, physically and emotionally demanding, and nerve-wracking.”
There are 28 USAR teams across the United States, including Pennsylvania. Team members include firefighters, doctors, engineers, and first responders, who are cross-trained in areas such as search, rescue, medical, hazardous materials, and logistics. Trained and equipped with help from FEMA, they are called upon when needed to respond following a disaster. USAR teams have been deployed over the years to numerous disasters, including the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attacks, Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Matthew, and many storms, floods, and tornadoes.