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house Bill H.R. 639

Should Federal Employees Be Part of Urban Search & Rescue Task Forces?

Argument in favor

The federal government’s role in disaster response and search & rescue efforts — both of which fall under the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System’s purview — has been growing over the past 30 years. Accordingly, federal employees should be part of these task forces.

Ann's Opinion
···
04/08/2019
The federal government’s role in disaster response and search & rescue efforts — both of which fall under the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System’s purview — has been growing over the past 30 years. Accordingly, federal employees should be part of these task forces. And you need to get them to Puerto Rico now. That is a disaster area that has been neglected.
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John's Opinion
···
04/08/2019
There are many behind the scenes duty’s that need to be done
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Argument opposed

States and local governments and their employees are best-positioned to respond to emergencies quickly. Federal employees can support the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System task forces without being members of them.

Kodiwodi's Opinion
···
04/08/2019
I understand the intent of this bill but having been through numerous disasters myself, I feel strongly that the more Well trained local you can be the better. Those that live there know the area. They should call for and receive as much skilled support as they need without losing command of the situation. Whenever feds are brought in, they take over and all the local expertise goes out the window. If it’s asked for and the people are trained and up to date on their skills fine, if not stay out.
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Ian's Opinion
···
04/07/2019
As a former member of one of the 28-US&R teams, I question where this proposal is going? Currently, the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue teams are comprised of seasoned professionals from career fire departments and other associated professionals, such as iron workers, physicians, surgeons etc. Thus, these teams are often well suited for disasters because they come from backgrounds that receive regular practical application which is needed during deployments to civilian disaster areas. This is the very same reason that the US military has had success within Civil Affairs teams. Reservists come from a variety of backgrounds that can be best utilized in dealing with the local population. Federal employees are usually restricted to other daily duties that do not involve the same types of civilian activities; trauma surgery, auto machinery extrication, regular firefighting / emergency medical activity. I do not trust Federal assets to have the same level of experienced people, on a whole. On the surface, this appears to be nothing more than an attempt to give Federal employees a piece of the pie.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate Passed on a voice vote
      senate Committees
      Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  • The house Passed on a voice vote
      house Committees
      Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
      Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
    IntroducedJanuary 17th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 639?

This bill would amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to specify that National Urban Search and Rescue Response System task forces may include federal employees.

Impact

Federal employees; search and rescue efforts; National Urban Search and Rescue Response System; and National Urban Search and Rescue Response System task forces.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 639

$0.00
The CBO estimates that implementing this bill wouldn’t increase federal spending on task forces.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) introduced this bill to clarify that federal employees, in addition to state and local government employees, can be part of the task forces assembled as part of the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System.

In a 2006 report, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) suggested that US&R task forces may be duplicative with other federal disaster response infrastructure:

“Congress may wish to debate how US&R task forces fit into the broader scope of federal disaster response efforts. A report issued by the General Accounting Office prior to the terrorist attacks of 2001 identified 24 types of teams, administered by eight federal agencies, capable of responding to terrorist incidents involving weapons of mass destruction. The extent to which US&R task forces duplicate the capabilities and authorities of other federal response teams might be considered.”

This bill passed the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure by a a voice vote with the support of two bipartisan cosponsors (one Democrat and one Republican).

Of NoteThe Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, signed into law November 23, 1988, provides the statutory authority for most federal disaster response activities, especially as they pertain to FEMA and FEMA programs.

The National Urban Search and Rescue Response System contains around 5,700 personnel — mostly state and local government employees — serving on 28 task forces across the U.S. coordinated by FEMA. There are currently 60 federal employees serving on task forces.

The Congressional Research Service observes that “[t]he federal role in urban search and rescue efforts has developed slowly over the past three decades,” beginning with congressional enactment of the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977, which stimulated research and planning for earthquake response.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / AlenaPaulus)

AKA

To amend section 327 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to clarify that National Urban Search and Rescue Response System task forces may include Federal employees.

Official Title

To amend section 327 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to clarify that National Urban Search and Rescue Response System task forces may include Federal employees.

    I understand the intent of this bill but having been through numerous disasters myself, I feel strongly that the more Well trained local you can be the better. Those that live there know the area. They should call for and receive as much skilled support as they need without losing command of the situation. Whenever feds are brought in, they take over and all the local expertise goes out the window. If it’s asked for and the people are trained and up to date on their skills fine, if not stay out.
    Like (11)
    Follow
    Share
    As a former member of one of the 28-US&R teams, I question where this proposal is going? Currently, the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue teams are comprised of seasoned professionals from career fire departments and other associated professionals, such as iron workers, physicians, surgeons etc. Thus, these teams are often well suited for disasters because they come from backgrounds that receive regular practical application which is needed during deployments to civilian disaster areas. This is the very same reason that the US military has had success within Civil Affairs teams. Reservists come from a variety of backgrounds that can be best utilized in dealing with the local population. Federal employees are usually restricted to other daily duties that do not involve the same types of civilian activities; trauma surgery, auto machinery extrication, regular firefighting / emergency medical activity. I do not trust Federal assets to have the same level of experienced people, on a whole. On the surface, this appears to be nothing more than an attempt to give Federal employees a piece of the pie.
    Like (8)
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    Share
    I’m not sure why we need a bill to clarify something that is already allowed. We already have federal employees serving on Urban Search and Rescue task forces. I think there’s a lot more important legislation that our members of Congress could be proposing. For starters, where’s that infrastructure bill to fix our crumbling roads and bridges!
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    I think this is another issue that is and should be handled at the local level. How would the federal employees improve the situation over how it is handled at the local level? I don’t want to Hollywood stereotype but would the situation improve if the feds came in and take over? Because I don’t think they will be getting in the boats or fighting fires or digging survivors out of buildings will they? I may be wrong...but probably not.
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    I think State and local agencies will be better able to handle these situations.
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    States and local governments and their employees are best-positioned to respond to emergencies quickly. Federal employees can support the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System task forces without being members of them.
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    Protect Americans
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    The federal government’s role in disaster response and search & rescue efforts — both of which fall under the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System’s purview — has been growing over the past 30 years. Accordingly, federal employees should be part of these task forces. And you need to get them to Puerto Rico now. That is a disaster area that has been neglected.
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    There are many behind the scenes duty’s that need to be done
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    If they are in the Urban area and want to volunteer in a rescuer that’s fine. Other than that the Fed Government just wants control Over everything. Stay out of States business.
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    No federal employee should be forced into doing anything above and beyond the position for which they were hired. Outrageous.
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    If they have the required skills, yes.
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    Yes, because we are a nation that cares.
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