Albany, NY - Governor George E. Pataki has signed the "Good Samaritan Volunteer Firefighters Assistance Act" into law, which will provide liability protections to fire departments or districts that donate fire control or rescue equipment to volunteer fire companies across New York State.
A number of local volunteer companies will benefit from the bill, according to officials.
"New York's fire departments have a long and proud history of working with and assisting our local volunteer fire departments with emergency response efforts by concluding joint training programs, as well as by donating used fire control and rescue equipment that they no longer need," Governor Pataki said. "The Good Samaritan Volunteer Firefighters Assistance Act" will ensure that fire companies that donate fire control and rescue equipment have necessary liability protections under state law when they make such donations.
"This new law will encourage more fire companies to donate fire control and rescue equipment to local volunteer fire companies, which will greatly enhance our volunteer firefighter's ability to respond to emergency calls in their communities," Governor Pataki said. "The new law is also careful to strike an appropriate balance between providing fire companies with important liability protections and ensuring that the equipment being donated is safe for operation."
State Senator Thomas Morahan said, "This new law will provide volunteer fire departments with a means to better protect the communities that they serve. The preparedness of our departments have been of paramount concern. I thank Governor Pataki for supporting our efforts and for supporting the implementation of the Good Samaritan Firefighters' Assistance Act."
Assemblyman Alexander Gromack said, "Our volunteer firefighters risk their lives every time that they answer a call. We are making sure that they have the very best equipment to do their jobs. I am pleased that Governor Pataki agreed with the Legislature on this important issue for our brave volunteer firefighters. The end result is that we are helping each other save lives and that is what truly matters."
Under the new law, fire departments or districts will not be liable for civil damages for personal injuries, property damage, or death that is caused by a defect in equipment they have donated to a local volunteer fire company. This liability protection also extends to any state or local agency that distributes fire control and rescue equipment.
To ensure the safety of fire control or rescue equipment, the law requires that all equipment donated to a volunteer fire company must have been certified as meeting the appropriate manufacturer specifications for safety and use.
Secretary of State Randy A. Daniels noted, "New York State has an outstanding record in supporting those who fight fires and protect public safety. Governor Pataki's signing of this new law will help to ensure that volunteer firefighting companies have access to essential equipment they can effectively employ to continue their important efforts in protecting property and saving lives."
Kenneth Perskowski, President of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs said, "This new law resolves a problem that Fire Departments and Fire Districts have long been concerned with. Starting on May 15, donations of qualified equipment from one Fire Department to another is again encouraged and, more importantly, protected from litigation, which will allow us to go back to doing what we do best, helping each other."
Kirby Hannan, spokesperson for the Firemens Association of the State of New York said, "The Good Samaritan law establishes a secondary form of mutual aid, allowing fire companies to donate crucial equipment to other departments without worries about liability. We thank Governor Pataki, the State Legislature and trial lawyers for their work on this important legislation, which will improve the volunteer firefighting resource network, benefit taxpayers and enhance firefighting efforts in communities across New York State."
Under the new law, liability protections would not apply if the defect in the equipment that causes injury, damage or loss of life involves malice, gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct.
The "Good Samaritan Volunteer Firefighters' Assistance Act" took effect on Thursday, May 15, 2003.