New Hampshire law recognizes public works professionals as first responders

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has signed legislation into law that formally recognizes public works professionals as first responders.

Senate Bill 325, which had bipartisan support, defines first responders and includes them in New Hampshire’s definitions of “emergency management” and “local organization for emergency management” within the New Hampshire Homeland Security and Emergency Management:

"'First Responders' means state, county, and local governmental and nongovernmental emergency public safety fire, law enforcement, public safety telecommunications or dispatcher, emergency response, emergency medical services providers including hospital emergency facilities, emergency management, public health, clinical care, public works, and other skilled support personnel, such as equipment operators, that provide immediate support services necessary to perform emergency management functions.” (Emphasis added)

With the governor’s signature, New Hampshire becomes just the second state to recognize public works professionals as first responders. However, it’s been 12 years since Mississippi became the first state to do this.

New Hampshire’s law takes effect Aug. 6.

In Mississippi, the Silver Alert System was created in 2010 after Gov. Haley Barbour signed House Bill 664 into law. The statute recognizes first responders this way:

"(b) 'First responders' means state and local law enforcement personnel, fire department personnel, emergency medical personnel, emergency management personnel and public works personnel who may be deployed to bioterrorism attacks, terrorist attacks, catastrophic or natural disasters and emergencies.” (Emphasis added)

APWA members have been at the forefront of these efforts for legal recognition as they know – and have experienced – the demands of being first on a scene. They also continued to work during the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020.

Life and death scenarios consistently arise, yet public works first responders carry out their responsibilities with the upmost professionalism. New Hampshire’s and Mississippi’s laws are important as these states now formally recognize public works people the same as fire, police, EMS, and others.