When disaster strikes there is little time to think about much more than helping those with immediate needs. That became quite apparent when tornadoes ripped through southern Indiana in March 2012.

The General Assembly is working on a bill to remove one concern - how to pay for the relief.

House Bill 1325, which deals with mobile disaster relief funding, passed out of the Senate Tuesday with a 49-0 vote. State Representative Randy Frye authored the measure.

When parts of the Courierarea were devastated by those tornadoes, firefighters from across the state responded to help their fellow Hoosiers. At that time, there was not a state funding mechanism to pay these first responders for their overtime work. As a result, the burden of paying these firefighters' overtime work fell on the local departments. Local departments also had to bear the extra cost of paying back-up firefighters to replace those who responded to Henryville.

"Hoosiers are known for their hospitality and their willingness to assist any community or individual in need," Frye said when he introduced the legislation. "However, the burdensome cost of responding to disasters forced communities to hesitate. This bill prevents local fire departments from ever seconding-guessing their inclination to help following a disaster."

HB 1325 provides that first responders may now be paid by the State Disaster Relief Fund. Additionally, the legislation allows funds for local departments to bring in backup firefighters to replace those who responded to a disaster.

"As a retired firefighter, I am well aware of the financial burdens that local fire departments bear," Frye said. "Every department recognizes their duty to serve not only their own community, but their neighboring communities as well. The money is not our motivation to help others, but it does provide the resources we need to respond to disasters and save lives."  

We're certain that our emergency workers - volunteer or paid - would not hesitate to answer a call. This bill goes a long way to letting them know that we understand that their services are vital to our communities.