Recovery from natural and man-made disasters is often assigned in part to engineers, who we expect to answer the call to fix the problem. Knowing the inevitability of periodic catastrophes, the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York (ACEC New York) strongly supports emergency responder legislation to prevent future misguided lawsuits against engineering firms for on-site conditions that are entirely outside their assigned responsibility. Unlike Good Samaritan Laws, which protect only unpaid volunteers from liability for work performed during state or national disasters, emergency responder legislation would provide design firms immunity from lawsuits that attempt to make engineers responsible for work outside their scope. Emergency responder legislation would ensure that engineering firms would be available and able to respond to future emergencies.
An example of an inequitable lawsuit is the air quality litigation against structural engineers following the site clean-up after the September 11th attacks at the World Trade Center. The immediate response by the engineering community in providing structural consulting services at Ground Zero contributed to perhaps the largest recovery and site clean-up in modern history. Structural engineers were hired to assess the structural stability of the surrounding buildings and the massive debris pile that in areas reached the height of a ten-story building. They performed this task successfully as no serious injury or fatality resulted from structural instability.