FIRST RESPONDER IDENTIFICATION OF EMERGENCY NEEDS IN DISASTER SITUATIONS
(House of Representatives - January 31, 2017)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.

        

[Pages H772-H775]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




     FIRST RESPONDER IDENTIFICATION OF EMERGENCY NEEDS IN DISASTER 
                               SITUATIONS

  Mr. BARLETTA. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the 
bill (H.R. 58) to require the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit 
a study on the circumstances which may impact the effectiveness and 
availability of first responders before, during, or after a terrorist 
threat or event, and for other purposes, as amended.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The text of the bill is as follows:

                                H.R. 58

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``First Responder 
     Identification of Emergency Needs in Disaster Situations'' or 
     the ``FRIENDS Act''.

     SEC. 2. CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH MAY IMPACT FIRST RESPONDERS 
                   DURING A TERRORIST EVENT.

       (a) In General.--Not later than one year after the date of 
     the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the 
     United States shall submit to the Committees on Homeland 
     Security and Transportation and Infrastructure of the House 
     of Representatives and the Committee on Homeland Security and 
     Governmental Affairs of the Senate a report that describes 
     select State and local programs and policies, as appropriate, 
     related to the preparedness and protection of first 
     responders. The report may include information on--
       (1) the degree to which such programs and policies include 
     consideration of the presence of a first responder's family 
     in an area impacted by a terrorist attack;
       (2) the availability of personal protective equipment for 
     first responders;
       (3) the availability of home Medkits for first responders 
     and their families for biological incident response; and
       (4) other related factors.
       (b) Context.--In preparing the report required under 
     subsection (a), the Comptroller General of the United States 
     may, as appropriate, provide information--
       (1) in a format that delineates high risk urban areas from 
     rural communities; and
       (2) on the degree to which the selected State and local 
     programs and policies included in such report were developed 
     or are being executed with funding from the Department of 
     Homeland Security, including grant funding from the State 
     Homeland Security Grant Program or the Urban Area Security 
     Initiative under sections 2002 and 2003, respectively, of the 
     Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 603 and 604).
       (c) Homeland Security Consideration.--After issuance of the 
     report required under subsection (a), the Secretary of 
     Homeland Security shall consider such report's findings and 
     assess its applicability for Federal first responders.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 
Pennsylvania (Mr. Barletta) and the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. 
Johnson) each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Pennsylvania.


                             General Leave

  Mr. BARLETTA. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members 
may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks 
and include extraneous material on H.R. 58, as amended.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Pennsylvania?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. BARLETTA. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  First, I welcome the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Johnson) to the 
committee. I look forward to working together to do good work for the 
American people.
  Mr. Speaker, firefighters, police, EMS, and other first responders 
are critical to our Nation's emergency management system. First 
responders leave their own families, even during disasters, to protect 
you and me.
  As recently as this past August, we saw devastating flooding in Baton 
Rouge and southeast Louisiana. The flooding touched every home, 
including the homes of firefighters, police, hospital workers, and 
other first responders. First responders focused on rescuing flood 
victims, while they knew their own homes were flooded and their own 
families were homeless.
  This legislation would require a report on the State and local 
programs and policies in place to prepare and protect first responders 
and their families in times of disaster. Taking care of first 
responders and their families gives our firefighters, police, and other 
critical emergency personnel the peace of mind to focus on the task at 
hand, rather than worrying whether their family is safe and taken care 
of.
  I urge my colleagues to support this bill.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I 
may consume.
  I rise in support of H.R. 58, the First Responder Identification of 
Emergency Needs in Disaster Situations, or the FRIENDS Act.
  This bill requires the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, to 
submit a report on how State and local programs affect the preparedness 
and protection of first responders. Congress and the American people 
need to know whether these programs consider circumstances that may 
affect a first responder's ability to respond to an event.
  In particular, the bill requires GAO to examine the degree to which 
State and local programs and policies consider the presence of a first 
responder's family in an area impacted by a terrorist attack, the 
availability of personal protective equipment for first responders, and 
the availability of home MedKits for first responders and their 
families for biological incident response.
  While we are asking GAO to examine State and local programs and 
policies, some of these programs and policies may be funded with 
Federal dollars. To that extent, Congress needs to know whether these 
federally funded programs and policies are as effective as possible to 
prepare and protect first responders.
  This month, the State of Georgia received two Presidential disaster 
declarations from devastating tornados in districts neighboring my own. 
While these are not terrorist attacks, these tornados highlight the 
fact that first responders are often called upon to respond to events 
in their own communities where they and their loved ones live. Our 
heros immediately respond to the call of duty, even though they 
themselves or their loved ones may be impacted. Thus, it is important 
that State and local preparedness programs are designed and developed 
to consider all situations that may impact first responder 
preparedness.

                              {time}  1415

  We must do everything we can to support our first responders who are 
often called upon to put their lives on the line to help others, even 
when their own families need them. So I thank my colleague, the 
gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson Lee), for introducing this bill and 
for her diligent work on this issue.
  In response to my chairman's welcome, I would have to respond by 
saying I am just giddy about being a part of this subcommittee, and I 
look forward to working with him and his staff to make things good for 
America and for our future.
  I urge my colleagues to join in my support of this bill.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. BARLETTA. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the 
gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson Lee), the sponsor of this 
legislation.

[[Page H773]]

  

  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Georgia and, 
likewise, congratulate him for his leadership on the Transportation 
Committee, along with his chairman.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise as a senior member of the Homeland Security 
Committee, which committee has had special emphasis on protecting and 
responding to our first responders, and so I am excited about the fact 
of moving this bill forward. I thank the Transportation and 
Infrastructure Committee, and I thank my Homeland Security Committee 
for moving this forward through an amendment process and now, 
ultimately, onto the floor of the House.
  I rise, Mr. Speaker, enthusiastically, in support of H.R. 58, the 
First Responder Identification of Emergency Needs in Disaster 
Situations, or FRIENDS, Act.
  I thank my chairman, Mr. McCaul, and Ranking Member Thompson for the 
valuable assistance and support in bringing this important bill before 
the House for consideration during the 114th Congress. We are now in 
the 115th Congress. I appreciate Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member 
DeFazio for allowing the FRIENDS Act now to come forward, which was 
referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to be 
considered on today's suspensions.
  The FRIENDS Act reflects what America is all about. The FRIENDS Act 
reflects what we, as Members of Congress, are all about. How many of us 
stop by fire stations, pat a police officer of many different levels on 
the back, say ``thank you,'' and recognize that that 911 number is a 
very special number to many of our constituents.
  But more importantly, when natural disasters or manmade disasters 
such as the horrific and heinous terrorist act of 9/11 occur, who are 
among the first to come? It is the first responders, and they go to 
faraway places.
  The FRIENDS Act reflects stakeholder input and bipartisan 
collaboration with the majority.
  I thank the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National 
Association of State EMS Officials working with me, and The 
International Emergency Management Society for their valuable 
assistance and input regarding the FRIENDS Act.
  Our two committees, Transportation and Infrastructure and Homeland 
Security, really respond in a bipartisan way. Our Homeland Security 
Committee will be facing many mountains of concerns dealing with 
intelligence issues, dealing with the issues with Russia, dealing with 
the issues of executive orders, but we do know that we come together to 
honor our first responders that are our Nation's heroes. They run into 
burning buildings; they rescue people trapped by dangerous floods and 
put themselves in harm's way to protect others. Just last week, in San 
Bernardino, we saw the brave first responders heroically pursue two 
individuals that fled from the scene of a deadly attack recently over 
the last year.
  To do their jobs, first responders must leave their homes and 
families while the rest of us cling to ours. Whether it is to deal with 
the aftermath of a terrorist attack, as I indicated, or the fires, 
hurricanes, and tornadoes that we have seen across America--devastation 
of so many of our constituents, loss of life--first responders leave 
their homes to ensure that others are safe.
  Unfortunately, today, first responders are asked to answer the call 
to action without knowing whether their families will be safe as the 
work to rescue others proceeds. Our first responders deserve better.
  The FRIENDS Act directs the Government Accountability Office to 
conduct a comprehensive review of policies and programs designed to 
ensure that first responders are able to do their jobs, and 
effectively, by assessing, among other things, measures taken to ensure 
first responder families are safe, first of all, and the availability 
of personal protective equipment exists so that they can come home to 
their families.
  It was particularly noticed during 9/11. For those of us who were 
able to go to Ground Zero as they were still continuing the recovery, 
many of you know they continued to recover for months and months and 
months, and you saw the kind of exposure those first responders had.
  During committee consideration of the FRIENDS Act, my friend from New 
York (Mr. Higgins) offered an amendment to authorize GAO to evaluate 
the availability of home med kits for first responders and their 
families in assessing the preparedness of first responders. I was 
pleased to support the Higgins amendment, and it adds to this bill.
  H.R. 58 also directs GAO to distinguish policies available in high-
risk urban areas which may be better resourced, and rural areas where 
efforts to ensure preparedness for first responders and their families 
may require creative leveraging of resources.
  This provision will ensure that the information included in the 
report will be applicable and adaptable by various communities across 
the country as they work to better protect their protectors. Let us 
remember both the rural community as well as the urban community.
  Additionally, the FRIENDS Act directs the Secretary of Homeland 
Security to review its findings and assess whether the policies 
identified could be applicable to Federal first responders.
  The FRIENDS Act has been endorsed by the International Association of 
Fire Chiefs and a number of other organizations.
  Before I conclude, let me again thank all of my colleagues.
  Mr. Speaker, I include in the Record a letter from the International 
Association of Fire Chiefs and, as well, the National Association of 
State EMS Officials.

                                         International Association


                                               of Fire Chiefs,

                                    Fairfax, VA, January 31, 2017.
     Hon. Sheila Jackson Lee,
     House of Representatives,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Representative Jackson Lee: On behalf of the 
     approximately 12,000 fire and emergency service leaders of 
     the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), I would 
     like to thank you for introducing H.R. 58, the First 
     Responder Identification of Emergency Needs in Disaster 
     Situations (FRIENDS) Act. The IAFC supports this legislation, 
     because it will examine an important issue facing the 
     nation's first responders during a major terrorist attack: 
     adequate preparedness for the first responders' families.
       During terrorist incidents, fire, law enforcement and EMS 
     officials will be called upon to take heroic actions to 
     protect the public and provide fire and emergency medical 
     response. In the case of a large-scale incident or biological 
     attack, the families of these first responders also will be 
     at risk. Based on the experience of IAFC members during the 
     response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the 2014 response 
     to potential Ebola incidents in the United States, I know 
     that the welfare of the first responders' families weighs 
     heavily on them as they serve the public. It is important 
     that federal, state, and local officials make plans to 
     provide for the safety of first responders' families in order 
     to ensure strong morale among local fire, law enforcement, 
     and EMS officials during a major terrorist attack.
       Thank you for introducing this important legislation. We 
     look forward to working with you to pass this legislation in 
     the House of Representatives.
       Sincerely,
                                      Fire Chief John D. Sinclair,
     President and Chairman of the Board.
                                  ____

                                              National Association


                                       of State EMS Officials,

                             Falls Church, VA, September 28, 2015.
     Re: Expressing Support for the Jackson Lee Amendment in the 
         Nature of a Substitute to H.R. 2795.

     Hon. Michael T. McCaul,
     Chairman, House Committee on Homeland Security, House of 
         Representatives, Washington, DC.
     Hon. Martha McSally,
     Chairman, Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, 
         and Communications, House of Representatives, Washington, 
         DC.
     Hon. Bennie G. Thompson,
     Ranking Member, House Committee on Homeland Security, House 
         of Representatives, Washington, DC.
     Hon. Donald M. Pyne,
     Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, 
         Response, and Communications, House of Representatives, 
         Washington, DC.
       We are writing to express our support for the Jackson Lee 
     Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute titled, the 
     ``Families of Responders Identification of Emergency Needs in 
     Designated Situations'' or the ``FRIENDS Act.'' This bill 
     would provide an important report on the state of family 
     support planning for the families of first responders.
       We believe that Federal family support planning is 
     important to homeland security because this area of 
     continuity of operations planning addresses the health and 
     safety needs of first responder families during terrorist 
     attacks or incidents as well as other emergencies. The 
     FRIENDS Act will be an

[[Page H774]]

     important first step in engaging the first responder 
     community on the role of family in preparedness and 
     continuity of operations.
       The FRIENDS Act would also engage first responder 
     organizations to get their perspectives on best practices in 
     family support planning programs on the local and state 
     levels.
       For these reasons, we support the FRIENDS Act of 2015.
           Sincerely,

                                              Paul R. Patrick,

                                President, National Association of
                                              State EMS Officials.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentlewoman has expired.
  Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I yield an additional 2 minutes 
to the gentlewoman.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, it is important to know of the 
important role that the International Association of Fire Chiefs play 
in the lives of first responders and their advocacy for their fellow 
brothers and sisters--and they call them their fellow brothers and 
sisters. I want to briefly read their words:

       Dear Representative Jackson Lee,
       On behalf of the approximately 12,000 fire and emergency 
     service leaders of the International Association of Fire 
     Chiefs, I would like to thank you for introducing H.R. 58, 
     the First Responder Identification of Emergency Needs in 
     Disaster Situations, FRIENDS, Act.
       The IAFC supports the legislation because it will examine 
     an important issue facing the Nation's first responders 
     during a major terrorist attack, adequate preparedness for 
     the first responders' families.

  It goes on to list terrorist incidents, fire, and law enforcement, 
and EMS officials will be called upon to take heroic action, and it 
recounts that their concern is what is happening to their family under 
these circumstances.
  In a letter from the National Association of State EMS Officials 
which I will insert into the Record, they indicate in their letter:

       We are writing to express our support for the Jackson Lee 
     amendment, which was the bill the Families of Responders 
     Identification of Emergency Needs in Designated Situations. 
     This bill would make an important report on the state of 
     family support planning for the families of first responders.

  Ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful to my colleagues for their 
assistance as we move the FRIENDS Act forward, but I am more grateful 
to those first responders who unselfishly put themselves forward and in 
danger to help our constituents and help all of us. To their families, 
we owe them the responsibility of ensuring that they are safe during 
the time of their loved ones being on the front lines of saving others.
  I ask my colleagues to support the FRIENDS Act, H.R. 58.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 58, the ``First Responder 
Identification of Emergency Needs in Disaster Situations, or ``Friends' 
Act'', and yield myself such time as I may consume.
  I thank Chairman McCaul and Ranking Member Thompson for the valuable 
assistance and support in bringing this important bill before the House 
for consideration during the 114th Congress.
  I appreciate and thank Chairman Bill Shuster and Ranking Member Peter 
A. DeFazio for allowing the FRIENDS Act, which was referred to the 
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to be considered under 
today's suspensions.
  The FRIENDS Act embodies the important and fundamental idea that we 
have an obligation to ensure that the first responders who protect our 
loved ones in emergencies have the peace of mind that comes from 
knowing that their loved ones are safe while they do their duty.
  During terrorist incidents, fire, law enforcement, and EMS officials 
will be called upon to take heroic actions to protect the public and 
provide fire and emergency medical response.
  The FRIENDS Act reflects stakeholder input and bipartisan 
collaboration with the Majority.
  I thank the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National 
Association of State EMS Officials, and the International Emergency 
Management Society for their valuable assistance and support for the 
FRIENDS Act.
  I also thank Kay Goss, the President of the International Emergency 
Management Society, who provided technical assistance on the work of 
first responders to prepare for catastrophic events.
  I am passionate about the work of those who dedicate themselves to 
public service.
  I hold in high regard the service of firefighters, law enforcement 
officers, emergency response technicians, nurses, emergency room 
doctors, and the dozens of other professionals who are the ultimate 
public servants.
  First responders are called to serve and few outside of their ranks 
can understand why they do the work they do each day--placing their 
lives in harm's way to save a stranger.
  Law enforcement officers, fire fighters, and emergency medical 
technicians make our lives safer, while often at the same time putting 
their own lives at risk.
  In the case of a large-scale incident or biological attack, the 
families of these first responders also will be at risk.
  Based upon the experience of International Fire Chiefs, which 
endorsed the FRIENDS Act, the members' experiences during their 
response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the 2014 response to 
potential Ebola incidents in the United States, know that the welfare 
of their families weighs heavily on first responders as they serve the 
public.
  It is important that federal, state, and local officials make plans 
to provide for the safety of first responders' families in order to 
ensure strong morale among local fire, law enforcement, and EMS 
officials during a major terrorist attack.
  H.R. 58 provides Congress an opportunity to let our first responders 
know that we know they have families and loved ones who they leave 
behind when they are called to duty, and their families will be 
protected in the first responder absence.
  The GAO study that will be provided as a result of this bill will 
report on what is being done by local and state governments to address 
the needs of first responder families when threats like Hurricanes 
Sandy, Hugo, and Katrina hit communities, or when a terrorist attack 
like the ones seen in New York and Boston occur.
  The report required by the Jackson Lee FRIENDS Act will also provide 
information on the availability of personal protective equipment for 
first responders.
  The issue of personal protective equipment was an acute problem for 
front line first responders during the 2014 Ebola crisis.
  First responders, including EMTs, emergency room doctors and nurses 
as well as law enforcement and fire department professionals, were not 
prepared for the crisis:
  1. Nearly 80 percent of first responders report that their hospital 
had not communicated to them any policy regarding potential admission 
of patients infected by Ebola;
  2. 85 percent said their hospital had not provided education on Ebola 
that allowed the nurses to interact and ask questions of patients;
  3. One-third said their hospital had insufficient supplies of eye 
protection (face shields or side shields with goggles) and fluid 
resistant/impermeable gowns; and
  4. Nearly 40 percent said their hospital did not have plans to equip 
isolation rooms with plastic covered mattresses and pillows and discard 
all linens after use; fewer than 10 percent said they were aware their 
hospital does have such a plan in place.
  The Centers for Disease Control and only a few hospitals around the 
country with infectious disease units knew the right protocols and had 
the right protective gear to be used when treating an Ebola patient.
  Ebola in the United States was a frightening experience for many, but 
I think we saw the great work that first responders do each day--our 
doctors and nurses went to work and treated the sick and did what they 
always do--they took care of us.
  During the 114th Congress the Homeland Security Committee unanimously 
voted to report the FRIENDS Act favorably to the full House, which 
passed the measure by an overwhelming margin and in support of local, 
state and federal first responders.
  The Comptroller General's comprehensive review of the range of 
policies and programs in place at the State level to address the 
preparedness and protection of first responders will also delineate 
high risk urban areas and rural communities; and the degree to which 
selected state policies were developed or executed with funding from 
the DHS Grant Programs or Urban Area Security Initiative authorized by 
the Homeland Security Act.
  The report's focus will be on the presence of the family of first 
responders in an area affected by a terrorist attack and the 
availability of essential personal protective equipment.
  This will be the first report that focuses on the family as a 
critical factor that should be considered in the work of first 
responders during times of crisis such as a terrorist attack or public 
emergency like in the massive flooding that occurred in the city of 
Houston last year and the year before.
  The well-being of family members is a factor that one would expect to 
weigh on a first responder called to respond to a terrorist attack or 
unprecedented emergency.
  The bravery or dedication of first responders is not in question--
they are the people who run into burning buildings to save people whom 
they may never have met.
  They are some of the best among us and we appreciate their dedication 
and service.
  Finally, the FRIENDS Act requires the Secretary of Homeland Security 
to consider the report's findings and their applicability for federal 
first responders.
  Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank Natalie Matson, of the Committee's 
majority staff and

[[Page H775]]

Moira Bergin, of the Committee's minority staff, both of whom worked 
closely with Lillie Coney on my staff on the FRIENDS Act.
  I also thank the staff of the Committee on Transportation and 
Infrastructure for their efforts to bring the bill before the full 
House for consideration.
  I ask all Members to join me in voting to pass H.R. 58, the FRIENDS 
Act.
  Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my 
time.
  Mr. BARLETTA. Mr. Speaker, I again urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' 
on H.R. 58, as amended, and I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Barletta) that the House suspend the 
rules and pass the bill, H.R. 58, as amended.
  The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the 
rules were suspended and the bill, as amended, was passed.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

                          ____________________