Bipartisan urban search and rescue bill passes House

Bill would enhance rescue capabilities in western PA

HARRISBURG, March 20 – In a bipartisan, unanimous vote on Wednesday, the Pennsylvania House passed legislation (H.B. 843) sponsored by state Reps. Dan Miller, D-Allegheny, and Natalie Mihalek, R-Allegheny, which would establish an advanced Urban Search and Rescue team in Allegheny County.

“I want to thank my colleagues for voting to support this bill and to help us get one step closer to bringing these life-saving capabilities to western Pennsylvania,” said Miller. “Unfortunately, the events of the last several years have underlined the need for an advanced urban search and rescue team in western PA. While I appreciate the efforts of the existing team in Philadelphia, it is critical that our region has the training and equipment available close to home when the need arises. I also want to thank Representative Mihalek for partnering with me on this bill and for her support in moving this through the House.”

The two representatives introduced the bill after the collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge in 2022 when resources from Pennsylvania’s only advanced urban search and rescue team, based in Philadelphia, had to be transported across the state to respond.

“Our local responders’ actions to the Fern Hollow bridge collapse, clearly, were swift, accurate and lifesaving. But the scenario showed us that there are resources that, when lives are stake, should not be six hours away,” said Mihalek. “Knowing that success depends on preparation, having a top-tier search and rescue team in the west will guarantee that when unthinkable emergencies occur, our responders’ efforts will continue to be of the highest caliber. Thank you to Representative Miller for his work on seeing this through.”

House Bill 843 would establish an Urban Search and Rescue team covering Allegheny County and western Pennsylvania that meets federal requirements and would also direct the Joint State Government Commission to conduct a comprehensive study and assessment of the state’s US&R capabilities. Companion legislation introduced by state Sens. Devlin Robinson, R-Allegheny, and Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, passed the Senate in February.

The House bill now heads to the state Senate for further consideration.