President Trump Signs Hawley-Hartzler Bill to Support First Responders

Friday, August 23, 2019

President Trump has signed the Hawley-Hartzler National Urban Search and Rescue Parity Act into law. The bill clarifies a misguided policy that prevented federal employees from assisting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) efforts.

The Hawley-Hartzler legislation provides FEMA access to more volunteers, which will allow US&R task forces to get to disaster areas and rescue survivors faster. There are 28 US&R task forces across the country that offer critical assistance disaster zones, including Missouri Task Force 1.

Senator Josh Hawley said, “This law makes it clear that federal employees who are willing and able to volunteer in US&R disaster relief efforts should be allowed to help. My hope is that it will save lives in Missouri and around the country by allowing more first responders to act when disaster strikes.”


Hawley introduced the Senate companion to Rep. Vicky Hartzler’s National Urban Search and Rescue Parity Act, which passed the House of Representatives in April and the Senate passed in July.

The 2016 National Urban Search and Rescue Response System Act ensured that non-federal employees participating in Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) task forces are provided certain federal protections from risks such as liability, personal injury, illness, disability, or death. Federal employees participating in US&R task forces do not require these explicit protections, because they are protected elsewhere in U.S. Code due to their full-time employment with the federal government.

Unfortunately, FEMA interpreted the new law to mean that federal workers are prohibited from participating in task forces. This is affecting US&R members across the country who are now prohibited from deploying to save lives.