Texas’ recent experience with wildfires and other natural disasters has prompted two new legislators to file bills dealing with volunteer assistance in serious emergencies. HB 487 by Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia) provides that the governing body of a city, the chief of a fire department, or a city emergency management director or coordinator may request or accept voluntary help, including the loan or operation of heavy construction equipment from a private owner or operator, that the designated authority believes necessary to respond to a hazardous or dangerous situation. The bill applies equally to assistance requested or accepted by a county commissioners court, county fire marshal, or incorporated volunteer fire department under contract with a county, or a county emergency management director or coordinator. HB 487 extends the same immunity from civil liability to an owner or operator of heavy construction equipment in these situations as currently exists for other volunteers.
HB 1531 by Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) allows emergency services personnel in counties with a population of 50,000 or less to carry a licensed
concealed handgun in the course of providing emergency services, even if the location in which the individual is providing the services otherwise bars conceal-carry. The bill defines “emergency services personnel” to include firefighters, EMS personnel, and other individuals who in the course and scope of employment or as volunteers provide services to the general public during emergency situations.