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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: March 29, 2022 01:26 PM
From: Representative Natalie Mihalek and Rep. Dan L. Miller
To: All House members
Subject: Modernizing Urban Search and Rescue Operations in Western PA
In the early morning of January 18th, 2022, all eyes were on Pittsburgh when a heavily trafficked bridge (Fern Hollow) collapsed and fell into a park. By the grace of God, there were no fatalities, but for several hours it was impossible for first responders to know that because there are no type 1 Urban Search and Rescue teams in Western PA. Officials who were on-site had to wait for nearly six hours for assets to arrive from the Philadelphia based PA Task Force (PATF-1). PEMA was notified at 10:51 am of a request for a Canine search dog team, and it wasn’t until 4:15 pm until Canine assistance had made it to the scene to search for entrapped victims.

This is unacceptable. Communities in Western PA should not have to wait hours for urban search and rescue resources to arrive.

That is why this bill is so important.

To be clear, this bill does not reduce any coverage or resources from Eastern PA. It merely requires a creation of a second PA Task Force Urban Search & Rescue team, based in Allegheny County, to assume primary coverage in the west. These two teams would have the same resources, the same training, the same equipment, but each will be able to respond appropriately and quickly.

The need for this is clear, not because of any failure of any individual or task force, but just because no injured or trapped Pennsylvanian should have to wait hours for a unit to arrive from across the state. We have the capability to do better and to build from our regional strengths.

Please join us in sponsoring this important, life-saving legislation.

Introduced as HB2492