Sen. Kennedy introduces bill to recognize utility linemen as first responders


Floodwaters cover the street under downed utility wires Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, in Cameron, La., after Hurricane Laura moved through the area Thursday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, Senator John Kennedy introduced a bill to revise the Department of Homeland Security’s definition of “emergency response providers” to include utility line technicians.

The definition in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 grants first-responder status to an array of occupations such as law enforcement, emergency public safety personnel and fire and medical rescuers, but does not currently include utility linemen. 

“Thousands of utility linemen are putting their safety at risk to repair Louisiana’s electrical grid after Hurricanes Laura and Delta devastated our state. In my book, these heroes are first responders, so my bill would legally add utility line technicians to Homeland Security’s list of first-responder occupations. I hope my colleagues join me in giving these brave linemen the recognition they deserve by moving this bill forward,” said Kennedy.

This fall, Hurricanes Laura and Delta destroyed thousands of Louisiana’s utility poles, lines and substations, particularly in the southwest portion of the state.

More than 8,300 utility line technicians are working in disaster conditions to rebuild electrical infrastructure across Louisiana.

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