SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation that will allow more state and local government employees to help with disaster response. House Bill 4005 expands the ability for state and local government employees with emergency response skills to take a leave from their jobs to assist during major disasters in Illinois and across the nation.
“Being prepared for any type of major disaster is one of my top priorities, and ensuring that we can get trained emergency response workers where we need them, when we need them, is a critical part of this,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “Enabling workers who are Red Cross volunteers to assist with disasters in other states is not just the right thing to do, it’s also beneficial to Illinois because of the hands-on experience they bring home with them.”
Current law allows state and local government employees who are certified disaster volunteers for the American Red Cross to take leave for up to 20 days to assist with response to major disasters within Illinois, with their department’s approval. House Bill 4005, sponsored by Rep. Raymond Poe (R-Springfield) and Sen. Emil Jones (D-Chicago), expands the law to allow American Red Cross volunteers to assist with disasters in other states. This will provide them with valuable experience that may later be used for response to disasters in Illinois. Requests to send these volunteers would be coordinated with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) to ensure that the state’s emergency response resources would not be depleted.
HB 4005 also allows state and local government employees to take leave from their jobs to assist IEMA with the state’s response efforts to a major disaster. Agency directors still will have the ability to deny a request for leave if it will be detrimental to the operations of that department.
“Much of our emergency response planning depends on local community emergency management workers, some of whom are also state or local government employees,” said William C. Burke, IEMA director. “Having them available to help us is very important to our overall response effort.”