02/09/11 Senate lawmakers voted 48-0 today in support of a bill co-authored by State Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) allowing Indiana to call upon and assist emergency response teams in neighboring states.
“Recent winter storms provided examples of why it’s important for first responders to be able to provide backup to their counterparts in neighboring states,” Charbonneau said. “In emergency situations, it doesn’t matter if those in need are in Indiana, Michigan or Illinois. Their safety and a quick response by emergency crews is what matters. This bill is important, because it clarifies liability and certification issues that may arise when police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians cross jurisdictions.”
Under Senate Bill 6, state and local units of government in Indiana can enter into agreements with units of government in neighboring states that have also passed similar legislation. If SB 6 is passed into law, Indiana will be the first Midwestern state to follow the interstate agreement model. Charbonneau said similar legislative initiatives will be pursued in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio and efforts to involve Kentucky are ongoing. He said the legislation will become even more effective as more states pass similar laws.
Some out-of-state first responders already come into Indiana to assist in emergency situations or vice versa. Charbonneau said these individuals are either certified in each state they are serving or they are exposing themselves to potential lawsuits. He said this bill stops the need for costly double certification, removes legal responsibilities and keeps employment benefits in place for interstate emergency crews
“There is a need to pass this law, because some response crews are already traveling across state lines to assist their counterparts but sometimes without needed legal protections,” Charbonneau said.
Charbonneau said the bill applies to all municipalities in Indiana, but the nearly 40 border counties may especially benefit from being able to call on Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio to help in times of need.
He said the Professional Firefighters Association of Indiana, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and Indiana Fire Chiefs Association support this proposal.
SB 6 can now move to the House of Representatives for further consideration.