Tuesday, June 23, 2015

HR 2795 Introduced – FRIENDS Act

Last week Rep. Jackson-Lee (D,TX)  and 14 Democrat co-sponsors introduced HR 2795, the First Responder Identification of Emergency Needs in Disaster Situations (FRIENDS) Act. The bill would require DHS to conduct a study on the circumstances which may impact the effectiveness and availability of first responders before, during, or after a terrorist threat or event.

This is a very short and simple bill with only two stipulations about the conduct of the study. First it would “include first responder input on how the presence of family in the impacted area, the adequacy of personal protective equipment, and training gaps may influence performance and availability” {§2(1)(A)}. Secondly it would “contain recommendations to the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate” {§2(1)(A)}.

Moving Forward

Jackson-Lee and one of her co-sponsors Rep. Payne are an influential Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee to which this bill was referred. Since this bill only calls for a study there is a good chance that it will be considered by the Committee. If it makes it to the floor of the House it will be considered under suspension of the rules and would almost certainly pass with a substantial bipartisan majority.


At first glance this bill would seem to be at least slightly insulting to the first responder community. Every day these people put their lives on the line, often ignoring the needs of their families and loved ones during the conduct of their duties.

A more reasoned consideration of the topic however reveals that there may be cause for concern when a large portion of the population is directly put at risk by a terrorist attack. If the families of first responders were directly affected by that attack it is not unreasonable to suspect that some portion of the community would put their families first and their jobs a distant second.

Having said that, I am not sure that a study would be able to give an accurate picture of that possible response/failure rate. Secondly, unless there were some way to separate the families of the first responders from the communities in which they respond (and thus protecting them from the potential effects of a terrorist attack), I do not think that there is anything that could be done to mitigate the situation.

This is another reason for ensuring that planning for the emergency response to any major terrorist event includes National Guard and Federal military forces (much to the dismay of the black helicopter crowd). With these people being brought in from outside of the actual site of the terrorist attack, there would be the standard and usual separation of job and family that we have come to expect from these people. Unfortunately, we would still have to depend on the first responders to put their families second in the initial hours and days of any attack as it would take that long for a significant military response.

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