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Admin Search and Rescue legislation introduced in Senate

Senate Chamber
It is long on boating regulations while for Fire and EMS — not so much

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A bill was introduced on Monday in the Senate to legitimize the establishment of the Department of Search and Rescue, which will include fire, emergency medical, and marine patrol services.

According to the Administration’s proposed measure it is imperative that the government promotes the safety of our society by providing search, rescue, fire protection, marine patrol, and emergency medical services.

“Due to the urgent need to have the Department of Search and Rescue up and running immediately and without delay, this Act shall become effective after passage by the Legislature and approval by the Governor.”

Perhaps due to this “urgent need”, Samoa News should point out that  while the bill mentions Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS), the body of the bill pertains to Marine Patrol services focusing on boating safety and maritime regulations.

Senate’s Legal Counsel, Mitzie Jessop Taase confirmed with Samoa News the Administration bill was submitted for first reading ‘as is’.

Mrs Taase also confirmed there are no laws under the American Samoa Code Annotated that guide the work of the Fire Division and Emergency Medical Services.

According to the bill the Department of Search and Rescue is responsible for providing fire, emergency medical services, and marine patrol services for American Samoa.

 “The Governor shall appoint a Director of Search and Rescue who is responsible to oversee all operations of the Department of Search and Rescue. The Director of Search and Rescue shall, establish training and policies to provide competent search, rescue, marine patrol, fire protection, and emergency medical services; contract with a medical director to provide medical supervision of paramedics and emergency medical technicians; and promulgate rules required to carry out the intent of this chapter pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act, Section 4.1001, et seq.”

Furthermore the Director may appoint law enforcement officers who are the graduates of a police academy that was approved by the Commissioner of Public Safety or otherwise authorized by law.

 “Law enforcement officers authorized under this code section may make arrests: with an arrest warrant; and without a warrant for offenses that occur on the waters of American Samoa or on any vessel on the waters of American Samoa; for offenses committed in violation of Title 20; and for the offenses of resisting or interfering with an arrest and obstructing government operations.”

Without further guidelines for Fire or EMS, the bill focuses the remainder of its 19 pages to administrative rules for Marine Patrol Services including the numbering and marking of undocumented vessels; requirements for associated equipment; boat and associated equipment standards; operating requirements: boating safety education; safety patrol and enforcement activity; and violations of provisions of these chapters.”

Also the new department will require all vessels to comply with uniform reporting and investigation of standards of casualties and accidents as well as registration and numbers in compliance with the Federal Boat Safety Act.

Furthermore the proposed bill says every vessel shall have aboard safety equipment as shall be set out in the rules and regulations of the Department of Public Safety Search and Rescue and sets out a long list of safety equipment required as well as the responsibility of boat operators in the event of collisions, accidents or death or injuries at sea.

“When, as a result of an occurrence that involves a vessel, the operator or any person on board the vessel shall, without delay, by the quickest means available notify the Department of Public Safety Search and Rescue, marine enforcement division.”

Concerning events on the water — regattas, races, marine parades, tournaments, or exhibitions on any waters of the territory, “No event shall be conducted without authorization of the Department of Public Safety Search and Rescue in writing.”