Sunday, April 25, 2021

HR 1539 Introduced – PROTECT Act

Last month Rep Aguilar (D,CA) introduced HR 1539, the Providing Rational Options Toward the Elimination of Catastrophic Terrorism (PROTECT) Act of 2021. The bill would require DHS to develop “guidance relating to domestic preparedness for and collective response to terrorism in order to assist in the development of emergency action and response plans for active shooter and mass casualty incidents in public and private locations, including facilities that have been identified by the Department as potentially vulnerable targets” {new §890B(a)}.


Section 2 of the bill would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 by adding a new §890B. The guidance for ‘emergency action and response plans for active shooter and mass casualty incidents’ could include {new §809B(b)}:

• A strategy for properly responding to an active shooter or mass casualty incident in a public or private location, including training, evacuating, and providing care to persons in such location, with consideration given to the needs of persons with disabilities.

• A plan for establishing a unified command, including identification of casualty collection points and staging areas for law enforcement, fire response, and medical personnel.

• A schedule for regular testing of equipment used to receive communications during such an incident.

• A practiced method and plan to communicate with occupants of such location during such an incident.

• A practiced method and plan to communicate with the surrounding community regarding such an incident and the needs of Federal, State, and local officials.

• A plan for coordinating with volunteer organizations to expedite assistance for victims.

• A schedule for joint exercises and training.

• A plan for outreach to facilities that have been identified by the Department as potentially vulnerable targets.

• Other planning documents, as determined by the Secretary, including appropriate regionally focused products, plans, training, and outreach.”.

Moving Forward

Aguilar is not a member of the House Homeland Security Committee to which this bill was referred for consideration. However, four of his 21 Democratic cosponsors {Rep Clarke (D,NY), Rep Rice (D,NY), Rep Luria (D,VA), and Rep Correa (D,CA)} are members of the Committee. This means that there should be enough influence available to have the Committee consider this bill.

I do not see anything in the bill that would engender any serious opposition to the bill, especially since the guidance ‘requirements’ I have listed above are permissive not mandated. But the fact that there are no Republican cosponsors, even in this highly partisan 117th Congress, would seem to indicate that there could be some Republican concerns that I do not see. Still, I suspect that the bill would pass out of Committee with significant bipartisan support and could be expected to move the floor of the House via the suspension of the rules process.

This bill would not be considered under the normal order of business in the Senate, it is simply not important enough to take up the time required for the debate and amendment process in the Senate. If there is any significant Republican opposition in the House, the bill would almost certainly not be considered in the Senate under the unanimous consent process. The only other way this bill could make it to the President’s desk would be as an amendment to an authorization or spending bill.


This bill does not really fall into any of the categories of bills that I normally follow here in this blog, but it is here because active shooter planning is a pet peeve of mine. I am certainly in favor of active shooter planning, but I am extremely concerned that no one seems to want take into account the unique problems the response to an active shooter incident would entail at a facility with significant storage of hazardous chemicals. Bullets from most handguns and almost all longarms would penetrate the vast majority of chemical storage tanks and almost all portable containers, resulting in leaks of potentially toxic or flammable chemicals into the incident site. And it does not matter if those bullets come from perpetrator firearms or police firearms, the release will occur and further aggravate the situation. This is one of the reasons that the chemical industry has historically been so resistant to the use of armed guards on their facilities.

Any response guidance that does not take into account this potentially catastrophic problem does a serious disservice to law enforcement and private security guards, as well as the general public. With that in mind, I would like to see the following sub-paragraph inserted in §809B(b):

“(8) A plan for facilities that store hazardous chemicals on site that would include prior notification to potential armed responders to an active shooter incident about the hazards associated with the potential release of those chemicals resulting from penetration of bullets into the storage tanks and portable containers on site.”

1 comment:

Laurie Thomas said...

Start with this issue and move further down the continuum of facilities whose response community only loosely understands the physical constraints of response to that facility. Facility: "In that part of the plant, everything needs to be intrinsically safe". Law Enforcement: "What does 'intrinsically safe' mean?"

I'm just sayin'.

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