First Responders Defined by the NCHRP

The term ‘first responder’ has been used to describe a number of individuals, from firefighters to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) personnel. However, with the introduction of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, a working definition needs to be agreed upon between federal and state agencies.

The newly invigorated Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2014 provides grants for state and local governments for “emergency communications activities.” However, the term ‘first responder’ isn’t defined in the amended Job Creation Act. The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) has released a Research Results Digest that discusses whether the definition of ‘first responder’ is consistently included in federal law, and if so, what that definition is.

Although various bills don’t include a definition, states individually include definitions of ‘first responder’. Even so, the federal government often does not depend on a state’s definition of ‘first responder’; instead, these grants typically narrow the term down to include only emergency response providers such as EMTs, police officers, or firefighters.

The Research Results Digest came to the following conclusions: “Although preliminary evidence had suggested that grant funding to public safety personnel or entities or so-called ‘first responders’ might be affected by how that term was defined in federal grants law, and in the laws and regulations of the states, that has not proved to be the case.” Although the term is used colloquially by states and state officials, the final verdict is that federal law or regulations tend to be relatively specific in their definitions.

“The research has shown that the term used for federal grants law, for those grants awarded and administered by the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is ’emergency response provider.’ This term is used consistently in the laws enacted by Congress, from 2002 to the present. The term is defined in 6 U.S.C. 101(6) to mean ‘Federal, State, and local governmental and nongovernmental emergency public safety, fire, law enforcement, emergency response, emergency medical (including hospital emergency facilities), and related personnel, agencies, and authorities.'”

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