Senate lawmakers voted 48-0 Tuesday in support of a bill co-authored by State Senator Ed Charbonneau allowing Indiana to call upon and assist emergency response teams in neighboring states.
For example, response teams may need backup when dealing with emergencies like fires or collisions on highways close to state lines. This proposal enables first responders from Indiana to call on or help other responders from neighboring states while clarifying liability and certification issues that may arise when firefighters and police officers begin crossing 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. Similar legislative initiatives will be pursued in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio and efforts to involve Kentucky are ongoing. 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. These individuals are either certified in each state they are serving or they are exposing themselves to potential lawsuits. This bill will stop 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.
The bill applies to all municipalities in Indiana, but the nearly 40 border counties may really benefit from being able to call on Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio to help in times of need.
The Professional Firefighters Association of Indiana, Indiana Department of Homeland Security and Indiana Fire Chiefs Association all support this proposal.
SB 6 can now move to the House of Representatives for further consideration.