Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

tv   Hearing on the Threat of Natural Disasters  CSPAN  October 21, 2021 6:33pm-8:03pm EDT

6:33 pm
policies before the house judiciary committee. watch this hearing at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. online at c-span.org or on our new video app, c-span now. ♪♪ ♪ >> c-span is your unfiltered view of government, funded by these television companies and more. >> the greatest town on earth is the place you call home. at spark light it's our home, too and right now we're all facing our greatest challenge. that's why spark light is working around the clock to keep you connected. we're doing our part so it's easier to do yours. >> spark light supports c-span as public service along with these television providers, giving you a front-row seat to democrat see. >> next, experts testify on the threat of natural disasters and the country's preparedness for such threats and they talked
6:34 pm
about ways fema can better serve affected communities. this runs an hour and a half.
6:35 pm
>> the committee will come to
6:36 pm
order. every september, >> the committee will come to order. every september we observe national preparedness month, a critical reminder that preparing for natural sdafters can save lives. preparedness is increasingly seeing severe storms and weather events that create life-threatening situations and cause serious damage in our communities. driven by climate change, these extreme storm, hurricanes, wildfires and floods are becoming more frequent and more destructive each and every year. at the same time our federal, state and local emergency responders are working to address the ongoing public health crisis caused by the covid-19 pandemic. as a result of these compounding circumstances our disaster resources, personnel and volunteers are stretched thin
6:37 pm
making emergency response and recovery more challenging and more expensive. severe storms, extreme flooding and devastating wildfires cost our nation billions of dollars every year. we can strengthen our disaster response efforts and save taxpayer dollars by making smart, forward-looking investments in mitigation before a disaster strikes. in fact, studies have shown that every dollar invested in hazard mitigation and prevention services saves an average of $6 in recovery cost for taxpayers. as we continue to see worsening natural disasters and the dire consequences they have on our communities, we must take swift action to upgrade our infrastructure and ensure that our words, bridges, homes and businesses are resilient enough to withstand increasingly severe weather events and the storm act
6:38 pm
was signed into law earlier this year to help provide states and local communities with access to the resources they need to make these critical investments. i was pleased to secure $500 million in initial funding for the program as part of the senate passed bipartisan infrastructure bill and look forward to the house considering that bill soon. the storm act and its initial funding will start loan programs in every state to help communities begin to reduce their natural disaster. >> addition to creating these opportunities to help prevents widespread damage, we must also ensure that our disaster recovery efforts were working effectively. most importantly, we must have enough personnel and volunteers to assist in disaster recovery efforts. ranking member portman and i introduced bipartisan legislation earlier this year that would help the federal emergency management agency or fema ensure that we are able to recruit and retain enough
6:39 pm
reservists to quickly respond to emergencies by providing important employment protections, and i look forward to continuing to advance this bill so that we can help reduce the burden that makes it difficult for fema to recruit and train emergency personnel. we have also seen first hand how our disaster recovery resources do not always reach the communities that are most in need. whether they're recovering from a hurricane or other severe weather events or seeking resources related to the covid-19 pandemic response, too many of our most vulnerable communities do not have equal access to this vital assistance. communities of color and other underserved communities often disproportionately face the consequences of disasters and our disaster response efforts typically provide slow or inadequate relief to those communities. last congress i worked on legislation that would begin to strengthen our disaster response for all americans by creating an
6:40 pm
office at fema that would have equitable access to disaster assistance, and i would ensure that no matter when or where it would be equitable. i appreciate our witnesses here today and i look forward to discuss efforts that will help strengthen our disaster preparedness and response efforts across the country. ranking member, you are recognized for your opening comments. >> mr. chairman, i thank the witnesses for being here today. we are pleased to have a witness from ohio with us who has done a great job in ensuring that we have preparedness in our own state and has worked with the emergency management association. thank you for being here. this is an important hearing. we have the opportunity today to talk about preparedness to deal with natural disasters and let's
6:41 pm
hear it? we have seen the last couple of years the most damaging wildfires, droughts and hurricanes this our recent history, and so we need to be better prepared and we need to make sure fema is there to respond effectively and the emergency management agency to respond to the disasters and to remind people we have a decentralized system in the country. fema doesn't provide the boots on the ground. for the most part it's local responders who are first on the scene when disasters strike. this is reflective, by the way, of fema's emergency strategy and it's federally supported, state managed and locally executed. i've seen first hand the importance of this local preparedness and response in ohio over the last couple of decades representing southern ohio and now the whole state. we've had flooding. we've had tornadoes and other
6:42 pm
emergencies and in 2019, may of 2019 we've had a series of tornados that touched down on western ohio damaging or destroying hundreds of homes and businesses in the valley and displacing a lot of my fellow ohioans and it occurred dayton and troutwood and beaver creek. incredibly and thanks in large part to the alert systems and the training of our local responders while 166 people were injured, we did not have a single loss of life in the dayton area that night and if you had seen the disruption as i did you would be amazed that people weren't killed. >> it's amazing how quickly people got out of their homes and were able to avoid even worse situations. you did, sadly, have one casually that touched down in the north in sal ina, ohio.
6:43 pm
early in the morning, right after the tornado had hit and we went to thank people to show our support for the first responders and they get in the way to ensure that they knew that we were there to support them. >> and to talk to a constituent who had been displaced. we saw amazing property damage and we saw the impressive work being done by our local first responders as well as immediate response by our state partners and federal partners who were already on the ground or were on their way. montgomery county sheriff rob struck took a lead in the dayton area for much of the damage and he had a command center set up immediately and i was there to talk to his team and the central ohio strike team out of columbus, ohio. i am eager to talk about the team around the country. we did pass legislation in the teams and they did an awesome job to respond not just in ohio,
6:44 pm
but around the country and most recently with the hurricanes in the south-southeast, but also with regard to 9/11. they were there on the spot, and that was ohio task force one. we also went to see the red cross and what they were doing which was the jelter that had been set up and talked about what they were facing and the red cross was already providing food, water and shelter and a place for people to stay who this lost their homes and this security and a place to stay was absolutely critical to the people i talked to as they prepared to rebuild their lives, some from scratch. within a few weeks of the event, fema had three active centers open across the valley with case workers, mental health workers and people to help with small business loans and they also established an area for children to decompress in an area dedicated to helping people with
6:45 pm
disabilities and this was all set up pretty quickly and again, i had a chance to tour these. i can assure you it would have been much worse, but for the preparedness of the region and the preparedness we had in place with the first responders and i'm proud for southwest ohio for coming together, in this place and as an example, it was preparedness done right. again, thank you for being here today, and for the crucial role that you play for the national emergency management addition to your work in ohio. you were leading the ohio emergency management agency in 2019 when the tornadoes hit, and i saw the good work that you folks were doing. i look forward to all of our witnesses today, and i look forward to discussion the importance of properly preparing for our natural disasters. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. senator portman? >> it is the practice of this committee to swear in witnesses. so if the witnesses will stand
6:46 pm
and raise your right hand including those who are joining us by video. do you swear that the testimony you will give before this committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? >> i do. >> thank you. you may be seated. our first witness is seema merrick. miss merrick serves as the executive director of the ohio emergency management agency and has been an employee of the ohio department of public safety for nearly 35 years. she began her career as a dispatcher for the ohio state highway patrol in 1985 and held other positions within that division until 1996 where she began her career preparing the emergency management and mitigation techniques still widely utilized today. miss merrick was appointed by
6:47 pm
governor casey to be assistant director of the emergency management agency and served in that role until being appointed in june of '15 as executive director. welcome, you may proceed with your opening remarks. >> great, thank you. chairman peters, ranking member portman and distinguished members for inviting me again. [ indiscernible ] good to see you, sir. the national emergency management association, i am proud to be representing the state emergency management director. for the territories and the district of columbia. three fundamental pieces must be examined and these include how they help themselves and how we help one another and the state federal partnership. they help themselves by
6:48 pm
understanding fema is not a first responders and also by maintaining a close working relationship with the local emergency managers. according to data from a report with our local partner. in fiscal year 2020, state and local emergency management organizations managed 19,752 events without federal assistance. additionally, 27 states maintain their own state-funded assistance program to help citizens and businesses when a disaster or emergency does not meet the criteria for federal assistance. second, help one another through efforts such as the emergency management assistance compact or other also known as imac, celebrating its 24 years of service, it has 40,000 personnel assistant. most recently here in ohio, they were mastering the 2016
6:49 pm
republican national convention, and they equipped officers and other states to assist cleveland and managing significant events. finally, the federal state partnership is one of the bedrocks of emergency management. and the process is shaping national policy and programs like emergency management performance grant and it is seen in every corner of our profession. it is only program in the grants that require a 50/50 match. many overmatch the program and they continue to support over the past 18 months have provided the supplemental. >> in my written statement i provide a full example of building capacity through programs like the rebate programs and the joint exercise with the ohio national guard and
6:50 pm
providing virtual training opportunity, but for today's hearing, i want to be sure i provide recommendations on the future. first, we must clarify the role of emergency management. as it relates to events not wanting -- and the consequence manager for the federal government. let fema be the coordinator of federal resources instead of forcing us at the state level with the federal government. second, diversity and inclusion in diversity management. all current emergency management laws and policies through an equity lens. including unattended effects of policies and the community. finally, has worked to reduce the complexity of the fema public assistance program. for too long he's talked about simplifying the disaster program
6:51 pm
only to continue to follow procedures. they're too complex, they're slow and sometimes bureaucratic and in many cases the state and local government and for the individual and open community. in the past year we've reiterated our desire to work with them and all of these priorities and hope that we can find common ground to making fema and the emergency management profession to those it's intended to serve. thank you for your time todd, and i look forward to any questions you might have. >> thank you. our next witness is mr. jerry hancock. mr. hancock serves as the storm water and flood plains coordinator for the city of ann arbor in the great state of michigan. he is appearing on behalf of the
6:52 pm
state flood plain managers association. he has a special record of specialized experience over 30 years in environmental planning. his previous roles have included serving as the oakland county land commissioner and natural resources in environmental planning coordinator. mr. hancock, welcome to the committee, you may proceed to opening remarks. >> good morning. thank you rjs chairman and ranking member portland, and members of the committee. i am the storm water coordinator for the city of lansing michigan, and the storm water flood plain association. i am honored to be testifying today on behalf of msfa and also the association of flood plain
6:53 pm
managers. they are offered for your consideration. >> today the floods are worsening nationwide. nationally, losses are doubling every day and in the past decade here in michigan we experienced numerous major flood events and it's notable is our 500-year flood in detroit in 2014 and again this year. there was also 500-year flood in the area that caused two dam failures last year. in 2018, was there a year in houghton. for the balance of my time i will be highlighting five areas that mitigation can be accrued.
6:54 pm
hazard mitigation and risk assessment. simply put, where you can't mitigate. for flood plain managers this means they must have a nationwide program of updating rainfall and the set of flood maps that identifies all hazard,s as he passed the program. one-third of the nation's flood plains are mapped and those don't include things like the conditions in the areas that were required by the national flood mapping program and they were shortly after they were adopted due to obtaining better precipitation data with two of the maps coming now.
6:55 pm
second, preparedness and mitigation are with planning and local priorities. we had developed and made a local hadd art mitigation plan for the last 15 years andry recently received as building resilient infrastructure communities of funding for the next, and they identify priorities such as major structural reduction that we just completed for which we obtained a $4 million hazard grant. >> for those that received hazard mitigation funding and priorities are too small and they should ensure that
6:56 pm
pre-disaster mitigation programs like brick provide a more balanced funding approach. [ no audio ]
6:57 pm
>> to be a prepared nation we must have the capacity, and to have the full-time flood plain manager position like mine where as most communities do not. states could help fill this capacity gap by providing technical assistance to communities. fema does have a successful program and community assistance program which support the nfip with the national assistance program and this program could be replicated and be made available to build and maintain
6:58 pm
capacity of state hazard mitt mitigation programs and finally, it must be equitable producing the complexity of administering flood mitigation grants and could assist equitability. again, it has gone into much more detail on these and other recommendations. thank you. >> thank you, mr. hancock. our next witness is jennifer pipa. miss pipa serves as the vice president of disaster programs of the american red cross. she initially began her career with the red cross in 2004 after volunteering for the disaster action team in raleigh, north carolina. within one year she became the team's captain and swiftly moved to a role as caseworker for local families. her tenure also includes working
6:59 pm
at the operation of program's lead to support national headquarters in washington, d.c., and ceo of the american red cross in central florida. miss pipa, you may proceed with the opening remarks and welcome to the committee. >> good morning, chairman peters and ranking member portman and distinguished members of this committee. thank you for the privilege to be able to testify today and chair some of the impacts we're seeing across the nation as we begin to respond to disasters. disaster preparedness response and recovery are the heart of our mission and these needs are continuing to grow especially in vulnerable communities. these communities are disproportionately impacted by climate-related disasters. through this lens we see climate change as a worldwide, humanitarian emergency, a defining threat in the 21st century. my full testimony submitted for
7:00 pm
the record, today i'm going to talk about how the red cross response throughout all levels including the federal government and to talk about our mission to alleviate human suffering. the increasing rate of climate-driven disasters has become an unsustainable burden on the most vulnerable and notably, low income, low income communities of color, elderly and people with disabilities. with climate change that was nearly very recently episodic and just a few series of acute events, it's now become a chronic issue with devastating impacts. . this situation is only exacerbated the other struggles that disproportionately impacted families daily. a growing level of income disparity, the challenges with affordable housing, lack of access to health care, and food insecurity. lisa's disparities left many families struggling well before a disaster ever happened.
7:01 pm
indeed, most often, the folks at the american red cross helps our serving large disasters are those who have little or no resources prior to the disaster. in fact, in the fiscal year 2020, 63% of the clients we help were either at or below the federal poverty level. i want to share a couple statistics that help inform our planning at the american red cross, as we start to forge forward with this climate change initiative. the number of major climate related disasters has increased sixfold in the past 40 years. by 2030, we anticipate responding to a significant climate emergency every 10 to 12 days, a near constant state of response, leaving our communities in a chronic state of recovery. i want to share one anecdote that is not in my written testimony. i had the opportunity to visit louisiana this past weekend, and i spent some time at a red cross
7:02 pm
outreach we talked ng them with resources. it was a mom and her 12-year-old daughter. they t althey talked about how the roof of their home was totally torn off. and that their home was no longer livable. so the natural question to them was, where are you staying now? and this mom and dad and 12 year old daughter said that sometimes she is a good big sister and sometimes she is not, to her two younger brothers. simply said, we are staying in our car. they had to protect what little they could salvage from the disaster. from the hurricane. so they had to stay there to make sure they were protected. that is just one story that we see every year. so at the red cross is starting to do now and what we have begun is to use data to manage how we respond to our
7:03 pm
activities. we look at social vulnerability indices. this allows us to see communities that were already struggling and then we apply that. so we know where we need to be first and where we are going to be longest and where people need the most help to begin their recovery journey. this is not only a red organization. we do this at the federal level and with nonprofits. we got to work with the naacp and islamic relief. these partnerships are critical. these help extend our reach into communities and make sure that every community impacted has the opportunity to connect with us and other agencies to make sure that their recovery begins. so climate change is not about the number of inches that fell in rain in an hour. it's not a about the category that fell in an hour. it's about a family of five
7:04 pm
living in their car. it's about people who were struggling before this disaster ever happened and need more help now. so we are really privileged to be able to share with the red cross is doing. i want to thank the opportunity -- most importantly, i want to thank our volunteers, who give the one thing that is most precious, their time. we look forward to working with you as other branches of the government and other nonprofits. we need to help communities recover. i look forward to your questions. thank you. >> thank you, ms. pipa. our final witness is john butler, chief of a fire and rescue department in fairfax, virginia. prior to his time as chief he served 26 years with the howard county department of rescue services. and 21 years as a united states for marine, including to combat
7:05 pm
tours. he brings a wealth of experience, having held roles as a firefighter and paramedic. and as an emergency medical services chief and administrative chief before being named howard counties first african american fire chief in 2014. chief butler, welcome to the committee, you may proceed with your questions. >> thank you and good morning, chair peters and ranking member portman. i am john butler, chief of fire services for fairfax, virginia, second vice president of the international association of fire chiefs. i appreciate the opportunity today to discuss the worsening threat of nationalism masters. there are approximately 1.1 million firefighters in the united states, as well as career and volunteer fire
7:06 pm
department firefighters. we are facing a wider variety of threats today then we have in the past. this includes covid-19, a longer, more severe fire season and increasing frequency of other major storms. even a national pandemic effects [inaudible] , which puts us on the frontlines against all these threats. fema provides a real life stress test for the nation's emergency systems. our workers are heroic in the face of these threats. these include the review names for long term incidents, and the design of incidents response that last four weeks. major incidents can last for
7:07 pm
weeks or months, especially when recovery operations are hampered. the national emergency management system must command resources and supplies for long term events. second, new partners must be included in planning and training. the covid-19 pandemic demonstrated the need to include public health officials, utilities, public works, communications, transportation and other critical infrastructure. these must be included to prepare for hurricanes, tornadoes and wild land fires. they should be trained in incident command systems. incident comthere is a need to w agreements. and ensure that parties indeed are subject to agreements because during covid-19, our firefighters found that our neighbors were suffering from similar staffing shortages. they are concerned about spending resources for fear of
7:08 pm
exposure to covid-19. supplementary tools are needed, like national mutual aid systems and ifc can be used to move fire and emergency resources. fire and ems departments can wait years before they are reimbursed for interstate deployments. prior to ems department shortages of personnel, covid-19 has created ems shortages due to burn out, better job opportunities. volunteer fire departments are also facing challenges. volunteers are concerned about taking covid home to their families, and to their full-time salary jobs. there is also an issue of equipment shortages. basic equipment, including the
7:09 pm
semiconductor shortage, which has hampered firefighters. some programs provide important funding to personnel and equipment issues, providing matching grants to local fire departments, using a peer review process. the ifc has urged its congress to support programs that involve mitigation grants. we also urge fema to adopt systems and upgrades to its standards. we know that this is important to avoid property loss. ifc has a ready, set go program for communities. urban search and rescue has supported state and local
7:10 pm
partnerships. out of all three partnerships, there are funding challenges. finally, we asked the congress to identify leaders for fema. for example, we asked president biden to appoint an experienced fire service leader as administrator. the nation has faced a wide variety of threats. i look forward to working with you to address these challenges. thank you for having me. >> thank you, chief butler. if i mentioned in my opening statement earlier this year, the farm act was passed and signed into law. the bill grants fema the authority to work with states and tribal governments to establish a revolving fund that can be used by local governments to carry out mitigation projects and reduce natural disaster risk. this includes flooding, shoreline aversion, high water
7:11 pm
levels. mr. hancock, as you mentioned in your opening comments, our home state of michigan has faced record levels of flooding this year as well as some extreme shoreline erosion along the great lakes. i would like you to comment as to how important accessing funds like this will be one to local governments, that contained in the storm act. and also how important it is for local governments to have discretion as to which projects they would like to conduct. >> thank you. that is a good question. the idea of providing funds to the state revolving fund has been around to the while but initially it was eliminated to the sanitary system but about 16 years ago it opened up to stormwater. and so in ann arbor we need to use that extensively.
7:12 pm
in the past ten years or so we have probably done 13 million dollars worth of stormwater quality projects. so that type of funding is definitely a tool that is needed for communities. they use it extensively, so much that we tamp down our resource in that area. but that is a big tool to expand for mitigation and some of the other disasters and entities you mentioned, like shoreline a russian, rising waters. there are plenty of mitigation activities that would benefit from this type of funding. it is always good to have another tool in the tool box. so this is another tool for communities. i would say that it is not
7:13 pm
going to replace the idea of grants, since there is a payback associated with the loan. so some communities may be limited here in ann arbor. here in ann arbor we have a budget to do this. you don't necessarily have that. but still, they just have, like, one particular project that they can otherwise do. it is a great tool. so it's definitely something that i am sure they are grateful that congress is doing in its efforts. >> well, thank you, mr. hancock. in your opening statement you offered a very compelling story of the impact on families that these natural disasters can have. unfortunately, a range of research has shown that fema's systems, despite the best of intentions, from our folks at
7:14 pm
fema. often, a fema system can exacerbate racial and economic inequality after a disaster. communities are often exposed to damage, particularly marginalized communities. this is a trend that will continue as climate change continues to create more frequent and destructive disasters. so my question is straightforward. what more can fema do to promote equity within its programs and ensure that those who are hit hardest by these disasters, generally folks who are economically disadvantaged and in communities of color -- they need to have the opportunity to recover. what more should fema do? >> as i said in our opening statement, it is not one agency. it's a collaboration of agencies altogether. when you look at a footprint
7:15 pm
like louisiana and you look at the multiple parishes impacted, and you look at those who are geographically isolated, like a port sulfur, all the way down in other parishes, you will see maybe 15 homes and then maybe another 15 miles of industrial, then another ten homes. so finding all of those locations and making sure that we are connected is a job for all of the recovery. one of the ways that we can do that is sharing through information collaboration, so that when we talk to clients, one thing we do is make sure that they are connected with fema and that they are registered. it's one of the first conversations we have with our red cross clients as well. so making sure that we are showing each one of our community members but their need to do and how they can connect with all of the resources including fema, it's a critical part of it. it's these disasters are large in scope and scale and very complex. and different communities will choose to present or not to
7:16 pm
present for a white variety of reasons. and that's why it's important to have a variety of partners there on the ground so that those communities feel trusted and welcome to come forward and apply for assistance. >> thank you. well, fema is the lead agency for federal emergency response, but as you mentioned, we need other agencies and nonprofits to come together. my question, though, is to chief butler. specifically, when it comes to first responders, much more would you like to see congress do to support first responders who are, who need to be there, first on the scene, to help communities when confronted with a disaster? >> thank you, so. that's a really good question. i would start by saying we appreciate that we already are afforded in the form of migrant, and continuing those grant opportunities [inaudible]
7:17 pm
safer and the outcome of branch particularly finding and continuing to find the reason the u.s. source system is very important to us. because there are frontliners who are responding to these disasters at times. so, you know, to some extent i'll say the continuation of the support and the funding and increase in those dollar amounts will go a long way. >> well, thank you, chief plateau. [inaudible] department, you are recognized for your question. >> thank you mister chairman, and i thank the witnesses for your testimony today. and more importantly, you know, for what you do every day. chief butler, we were just talking about urban search and rescue. back in 2016, you may recall we passed legislation that was worked on in this committee called the national urban search and rescue response systems act, and enhanced
7:18 pm
conservation and protections for urban rescue teams, and requiring fema to finance and replace certain equipment used by those teens. how does that work? can you give us a sense of whether the legislation was help or not? and what more could be done to improve that legislation? you just remembered the programs, funding resources continuing. but, can you give us a sense of where we are with regard to implementation of that legislation and what else can be done? >> yes, thank you. we asked that congress can appropriate 1600 hundred dollars for the [inaudible] system in [inaudible] 2022. these this funding will allow us to use our teams to replace assets [inaudible] which are nearing the end of their lives, and increased funding also would allow fema to conduct a three or four full scale exercises each year to provide training along with
7:19 pm
operational readiness. i'll stop there and answer genesis off your question, how does it how has it worked so far? it worked well, has worked well, up until this point but as we've talked about this morning the increase in demand and the increase in weather extremes and other [inaudible] our teams requires that we keep up with the pace and the finding and the infrastructure, so, you know, the [inaudible] teams will be able to improve their temper beloved these four [inaudible] subterranean [inaudible] a branch and tunnel collapses, as somewhat of an emergent threat. also the usar teams will be able to evaluate the use of new technology such as manned aerial systems or robots. so the [inaudible] director [inaudible] to adequately [inaudible]
7:20 pm
state, territorial, and local [inaudible] . >> all right, thank you chief butter. i appreciate it. we just celebrate our youth our team locally for the work that they did done at the most recent targets but we also had a kind of silver commemoration of the 20-year honor anniversary of daniel everywhere or task force one [inaudible] took off immediately and my wife actually saw them on the highway heading toward new york and she was coming from d.c. and she saw them in pennsylvania? like flashing, that warning. so it's a great system. i'm a huge supporter. it's a example of state and local. there's so much training and so much rear expertise that fema essentially gets for free because you can have the firefighters and others, doctors, people with trained dogs and so on, and they do a lot of this [inaudible] justice volunteers and provide so much help and resources on a national level, so the search and rescue teams that every one
7:21 pm
of our [inaudible] response with mutual aid. so i'm a huge supporter, and i think it's, you know, frankly, it's an investment that really pays off. so i thank you for your service and thanks for what you said today. it will follow up with you on your comments. and miss, thanks for what you do in ohio, again. one thing you're talking about in your testimony, [inaudible] was the safe room rebate program to help prevent ohioans from needing assistance from an urban search and rescue team, as an example. can you talk about that and what other ways individuals and families can better prepare in order to avoid situations that would require rescue? >> thank you, senator. you know, our safe room rebate program in ohio [inaudible] has just been phenomenal. we have over 450 safe rooms that have been put into residential [inaudible] and one of the things that we do [inaudible] is ensure that when people build a safe room where they
7:22 pm
have an immigrant safe room, that they are coordinating with their first responders to let them know, like, the coats of, the geo coating of where it's at, in the event that [inaudible] on top of that [inaudible] shelter so they would know to go and clear that place for. but otherwise, you know, that's pretty much the response they would have to do. some of the other day is the other ways, i think, that families could better prepare to avoid these situations would think of [inaudible] desert, [inaudible] severe weather. even included a human unification plan. how can you let people know you are okay? i know, during, recently, during ida, we got a phone call from a friend of mine who had his family down in louisiana, he said, i can't get hold of them. i don't know if they're okay, i don't know if they have power, i don't know if they got out. [inaudible] so it's an important, very important [inaudible]
7:23 pm
communications, and how you connect or where you'll meet after an event. know how you receive information about those [inaudible] . have alerts active on your phone. enable them through the wireless emergency alert. obtaining weather radio, you know, to keep in your house, for places of worship, and other locations that where you have your phones on some. [inaudible] the last thing i want to make sure is you have a safe room, communicate that to your first responders, this is so important in the community. while first responders to include for urban search and rescue in ohio test response are trained to look for survivors, so you can facilitate their efforts by letting them know that you [inaudible] they have a chance to save more people because they'll just do a drive-by your place to make sure it's not covered by debris, and then they'll be able to move on. >> all good advice, thank you. and i hope people are listening
7:24 pm
and will listen to you. research has shown that one dollar of mr. geisha mitigation [inaudible] six dollars on future to [inaudible] the bipartisan infrastructure bill that is now before the house of representative. but we also have something in there called a building resilient infrastructure and communities program, or the bric program, there are. say there's a billion dollars for. that how important is mitigation for purchase of, ms. merick, and how has bric impacted ohio? >> senator, the first year of bric program, ohio only received the [inaudible] amount. we like most of the country did not receive competitive due to [inaudible] judge and some of the technical aspects of the program. [inaudible] bipartisan infrastructure bill we will have projects a,
7:25 pm
competitive package that we put together for the first year of funding [inaudible] of those projects fit within the future notice of funding opportunities that come out from fema, but of course we do appreciate you having this additional pot of money to be able to tap into [inaudible] out over the years the best way to be able to do that. some of those technical benchmarks. >> great. by time is expired. we will follow the specifics on how to include bric going forward. hopefully this will pass the house of representatives even this week, and will have that ability for higher under the state to apply for this grant and will follow up with you on your offer [inaudible] theme and how to reduce some of the costs and inefficiencies and some of the delays that you expect. thank you, miss, thank you all witnesses, thank you mister chairman. >> thank you, ranking member
7:26 pm
portman. we now recognize senator has meant for your questions. i also have to run over and vote, so i will also pass the gavel to you. >> well, thank you very much, mister chair, and ranking member portman, for this hearing. and a special thank you to all of our witnesses for the important that work that you do to prepare our communities for natural resistance and for becoming before this committee today. angela that when you're appreciative that you heard from the ranking member and the chair for all the [inaudible] that the [inaudible] disaster preparedness folks in our state and our communities, you do life-saving, like stabilizing work and you help our communities be resilient in the face of just incredible difficulties. so i just want to thank you all for what you do. and i want to start with a question to mr. hancock. i chair of the subcommittee on [inaudible] oversight, so i'm particularly focused on ensuring that the
7:27 pm
federal government spends taxpayer dollars efficiently and that we reduce abuse, rod and abuse which frightened abuse. as [inaudible] opening, a fema sponsored report indicated that every dollar spent on federal mitigation grants six dollars in savings. so, mr. hancock, how can we approve the ability of states and localities to invest in mitigation before a disaster strikes? >> i think that the best way to do that is with the federal government partnering with the states to the capacity of state to respond, so stakes [inaudible] easy for them [inaudible] communities. so, with fema providing assistance to the states, to increase their particular floodplain management capacity,
7:28 pm
in other words staffing, that they can in turn then work with the local communities [inaudible] i think that is an efficient way to go about that. an example from fema mentioned [inaudible] the senator from ohio mentioned that ohio didn't get any of the [inaudible] bric community in michigan [inaudible] side to side. and that's an area we're within bric, there could be a program within bric that just simply find space assistance to increase capacity of state governments to assist [inaudible] local communities. >> thank you. to me is merick, for a long time, i've heard from emergency management professionals in my state about the need to reduce
7:29 pm
the complexity of many fema programs and processes. in 2017, fema announced an initiative to colocate teams of human field staffers to state and local partners to improve communication and coordination between federal, state and local partners. and his team's, known as fema integration teams, or fit were created to help fit local partners more navigate more easily bureaucracy. [inaudible] in your have to have responded positively to the creation of a fit in my state in the future. so based on your perspective as president of the national emergency management association, have you found that s have been helpful in bridging the gap between state and local partners? >> make sure i am unmuted --
7:30 pm
>> there you are. >> in ohio, we don't have team embers with an integrated team. but there are views from other state directors that have been very positive. recently i was in chicago and it's my partner state, and they have been helpful in the area in which they are hired, in the preparedness and planning section, to help navigate and navigation, and working in some of the other programs. so i don't have a tremendous amount on this but i do know that as my colleagues and i talked about it they have had these on their teams, from fema. >> well thank you for that. and i look forward to learning more about reactions from other states. because it seems to me that this may be an area we want to expand on. ms. sima merick, i have another
7:31 pm
question for you, the federal disaster fund administered by fema, it allows a small amount to cover management costs, like oversight or grant processing. currently, cost awarded for one disaster can only be used for that particular disaster. ms. merick, one of the benefits of changing fema's policy that would permit states and localities to utilize dollars for management cost for all open, declare disasters? >> sure, thank you. thank you for asking this question. states can provide a certain portion of disaster cause to cover some of the administrative costs. currently, those funds are limited to specific disasters, as you indicated. this creates a disincentive to respond to disasters quickly as states naturally want to utilize much of that funding, as much as possible, by keeping it open. if management costs were not
7:32 pm
case pacific, we would be able to focus more on recovery than the administrative tracking of ours protester. if we are allowed to roll over those management costs, we could not only closeout disasters much faster, but also utilize those funds for capacity in the long term. i should note here that nina was grateful to your staff in getting legislation drafted. >> i thank you for that and i would look forward to continuing to work with that on that but i do have one more question but i think it would take us more overtime. so i will submit it to the record. i will now recognize senator rosen, who should be with us virtually. >> thank you, senator hassan, and i want to thank cheer peters for holding this
7:33 pm
hearing. i'm hearing about this all around the country. i want to talk a bit about wildfires, because it cost the country, particularly in the west, wildfires continue to worsen every year. they cause destruction to life, property, to wildlife, and of course to public land. in 2020, wildfires burned more than 3 million acres and the share with fema reporting on wildfires four and nearly 6 million acres of land, including several affecting that a, such as the tamarac fire. we must prevent further catastrophes. this includes senators urging cherish to include these ways
7:34 pm
horses in our reconciliation package. climate change has increased the severity of wildfires and other natural disasters. many say we no longer have a fire season -- unfortunately, fires are often year-round now and we have to address that. so ms. merick, can you talk about the challenges that emergency managers face in dealing with continuous and worsening natural disasters, year after year, without any intervening period of relief? >> sure, thank you very much. as we move forward and we have heard a lot with this, on emergency response, with covid, that, you know, our other paths of preparedness from mitigation to natural disasters -- we continue to have to be prepared to work on multiple
7:35 pm
advance, activate or have separate areas, simultaneously, at the same time, to make sure that we are coordinating and communicating not only with our locals, where the local disasters start work and and -- they start and end at the local level, right? and we have that ability with the federal government. but we also work with our federal partners to ensure that we know exactly how we execute those programs and what is on the table, those days, as we respond and we move forward and we know what programs we have to make sure that we are executing. >> story, thank you. my internet skipped a beat there so i didn't [inaudible]
7:36 pm
-- i am going to move on to the same topic to mr. butler. there is a difference in pay between federal and non federal firefighters? hot shots, they call them? does this affect our nation's ability to respond, again, increasingly to respond to these natural disasters? so how does this affect the recruitment and retention of firefighters? >> thank you, ma'am, that is a really good question. as a fire chief, my experience has been with local firefighters. my brothers and sisters and the wild land community are somewhat losing out in competition when it comes to pay and salary. there are a lot of choices out there and a lot of opportunities for respond or's.
7:37 pm
>> i'm sorry, go ahead. >> yeah, so keeping up with this authority is very important. we know that on the structural side, the what land community is behind in salary. >> i'm going to be able to attach some legislation on permanent, year-round provision for wild land firefighters. adding 6000 more to help with cause -- or, to help with fight, not with cost. and what they deserve to be paid. we appreciate everything that they do out there. but of course you can't fight a wildfire if you don't have water. so we need to talk about drought because 90% of the wild
7:38 pm
is currently experiencing drought in these areas. significantly below average precipitation and [inaudible] -- so it's a reclamation issue with the water shortage, provides water, generates electricity, for more than 20 million people. the declaration means that nevada [inaudible] and nevada governors have sent a letter asking to declare a drought, a female level drought, president biden. [inaudible] so wildfire droughts unfortunately go hand in hand, so ms. merick can you discuss fema assistance in response to the drought? and what must be specifically done to prepare for some of the extreme droughts, and these
7:39 pm
exact conditions [inaudible] ? >> sure. as we respond to any event, senator, i think it's important that we keep the focus on our basic response. ourwe go back and look at our preparedness action, we continue to communicate with our locals, we refer to our action plan. in this plan we need to refer to and ensure that things are being coordinated appropriately, at the appropriate agency levels, whether that is federal or local agencies. and then talk about mitigation measures that have already been designs. and folks are starting to undertake and ensure that they are being put out there, so you can understand that they are happening. how do they tap into those
7:40 pm
programs, in which they can receive some guidance? >> thank, you i appreciate all of you for being here. of course, in the west, extreme heat and wildfires are going to continue, as well as other disasters. [inaudible] [inaudible] thank you. >> thank you, senator rosen. senator johnson -- oh, you are not available, okay. i do have another question for mr. hancock. climate change is increasing the cost of disaster response and recovery. the national oceanic and atmospheric administration, otherwise known as noaa tells us that extreme weather and climate events, which each caused one billion dollars or more in losses --
7:41 pm
recent disasters like the flooding in new hampshire this summer, show us the need to protect communities and taxpayer dollars. the bipartisan infrastructure package includes funding that i pushed for to invest in coastal resiliency measures. mr. hancock, can you discuss the importance of investments to prepare for and mitigate damage from more frequent flooding events and other disasters prompted by the changing climate? >> yeah. so the amount of disasters, like he said, are increasing, so much so that as a few other people have said, it's one disaster after another after another. so the capacity here, i think,
7:42 pm
comes back to this question of, states not having the capacity to respond to one after another after another. so we could use assistance from the federal government to help us increase our capacity during times we are not having disasters. and this was talked about a bit earlier. but a lot of the funding for disaster response and recovery comes from disasters -- well, it would be more helpful if these were not tied to individual disasters. and we had increased capacity and related to events. >> got it. i also wanted to follow up on that. because generally we have considered historic flood patterns when we look at planning and investment in
7:43 pm
mitigation. how important is it for state and local governments as well as the federal government to consider future flood risk and their infrastructure plans? >> that is a great question. just like he said, most flood maps that we do are based on what happened in the past. to use one example, we are working at a local community on coastal. so it may have been built for decades, so to plan for a safe building based on what happened in the past may not necessarily make that building safe in the future. so you can apply that logic to any infrastructure, whether a dam or stormwater. we are building infrastructure for the future.
7:44 pm
so having future conditions shown to a community and its ability to plan appropriately for their infrastructure and buildings of the future -- >> thank you for that answer. i'm just want to check with our crew here. a senator padilla available? okay, so next up is senator padilla. >> i want to follow up on what senator rosen -- but specifically in california, where [inaudible] they experienced more than 10,000 fire incidents. more than 2 million acres burned and more than 10,000 structures were damaged. california residents rely upon local and regional fire departments to provide
7:45 pm
expedient mobilization and response to ever worsening fire seasons. however, as chief butler mentioned in his testimony, the national fire protection association found that a third of departments do not have access to this power. they are subject to his best, this old systems, and many do not have proper venues for ems personnel. the questi the question for treatment or is it [inaudible] to fight five have now faced inadequate facilities [inaudible] could you tell the committee would infrastructure [inaudible] means for the morale of personnel and the capabilities
7:46 pm
of unit? >> you get right on the head, so, with the words [inaudible] and it [inaudible] morale equals mission success and missions sir success equals morale. in here, the wonders of the responders's and should be paramount. there are many [inaudible] stations that would be condemned in any other communities. the irony of those working in some of these structures are going out to do inspection and look at the liability of some buildings and coming back to stations that [inaudible] [inaudible] our mental health is [inaudible] is should be and has been, but there's a lot of spotlight
7:47 pm
[inaudible] [inaudible] carcinogen exposure reduction. fire fighters and there's a whole lot of [inaudible] that show that [inaudible] [inaudible] we are getting [inaudible] pay attention to our personal protective [inaudible] keeping up to date, and being funded appropriately for proper ppe and fire stations and that we are on. >> so i particularly appreciate you mentioning the impact on mental health of the firefighters and [inaudible] prioritized behavioural health for its members and the communities that everybody serves. so we take that [inaudible] but what else this committee committee overall can do to support infrastructure needs
7:48 pm
[inaudible] fires and emergency service. but while i still have to, minutes i also wanted to raise just the issue of the [inaudible] rich governors famous disaster of. is it gives short shrift to communities facing wildfires, specifically. due to the unique bag nature of wildfires many california communities have experienced difficulty after difficulty in the way in the wake of recent catastrophic wildfires [inaudible] reimbursement regarding debris removal, disaster existence elevated eligibility, individualistic, instill. homeless shorts and relocation assistance [inaudible] do you have any specific thoughts on how fema could be more inclusive of the needs of the fire and wild fire respondents? >> yes, senator.
7:49 pm
it starts with leadership in this election [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] by critical, competent, you know, administrator, who is very [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] fierce in their first sack. so, yes. you know, i'll stop there. >> yeah, okay. i appreciate that. we'll follow up and [inaudible]
7:50 pm
on the same topic [inaudible] in my time remaining [inaudible] as questions to me pipa as [inaudible] a fema in disaster response, do you have any ideas or [inaudible] how fema regulations be upgraded to [inaudible] extreme weather and better support [inaudible] response to wildfires? >> thank you for the question, senator. there's a couple ways that we can work together, and i think making sure that folks are connected into the system and that not just our agency but other nonprofits, for profit, religious base entities out there, helping to extend the reach into each one of those communities. as we've seen, especially with the fire while the fire season over the last couple of years, it's got much earlier. it has gone longer, and we have seen more ongoing destruction. so, one of the things we look at is refreshing our workforce
7:51 pm
and making sure that we have additional volunteers to come out and support, and that at the same time we make sure that we are connecting with fema, both at the state level and at the national level, to make sure that we are aligned, and that we know that we are both covering the communities that needs those impacted and need assistance in order to begin their recovery process. >> thank you very much, mister [inaudible] following up with everybody. [inaudible] . >> thank you, senator padilla. senator ossoff, you're recognized for the question. >> thank you, mister chairman and thank you to our panelists and persons and joining us remotely, miss pipa. i'd like to discuss with you issues of particular concern to my constituents and coastal georgia. just a few weeks ago i visited saint berries in captain county, georgia, and convened local leaders to discuss the communities readiness or four more intense tropical storm, storm surge events, costar
7:52 pm
inundations. good news is that the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which the senate passed last month, includes more than 12 billion dollars for coastal resilience programs, improving drainage infrastructure, martin remediation, weatherize asian of public and private buildings, improvements to evacuation routes to assist coastal communities like those in georgia's global golden isles. and while these investments will help to mitigate the effects of disasters, we also need a prepared public to propel local officials in a robust and adaptable disaster response system. so i have to questions for you on this subject. the first is can you describe what the american where red cross is doing with a focus on the coastal southeast and coastal georgia to adapt your organization and resource allocation for events like those? and the second question is, would you or city or american red cross executives committed
7:53 pm
to joining me for a roundtable with local officials and community legal leaders in coastal georgia to help inform the public about steps they can take to prepare themselves and to coordinate a better cross jurisdictional preparedness program for those kinds of events? >> thank you for both questions. [inaudible] to the first, one historically what we have seen is that there were certain geographic areas of the country that took preparedness seriously. we talk about the gulf coast, we talk about the west coast. i have we seen over the past five or six years, that climate change is now exposing areas that would typically take preparedness actions to take them, so part of what the red cross is doing is trying to reach all of those communities with not only education that's in person in schools to kindergartners, through second grade with pillow k, and then we have to [inaudible] prepare with pedro, but we also do an app now that's just a
7:54 pm
free app that folks can download. one of the things we hear a lot he the back is becoming prepared is expensive. it's a cost allocation and for a family that's operating at or below the poverty level, they don't have the luxury of being able to build a kit and be prepared. and so a lot of what we focus on our non financial components that they can take into account. communication plans, as fema talks about making sure that your calling someone. copies of your documents. knowing a hurricane escape route. so there are absolutely no cost preparedness actions that each family along the coast ten top. you talk about investing in a better infrastructure to facilitate evacuation, right? as a family, we own part of that responsibility to know how we need to get out of that area and to listen to those officials. so, it's ongoing. we find that the educated parents, but then we also educate the kids at school, which takes it home to them and helps.
7:55 pm
but what we see is messaging time and time again, especially from leadership and elected officials. as you stated the hurricane season it's a primetime of, after a disaster you've seen from a national perspective, people are more receptive to prepare this messaging and taking preparedness i actions. so these are all pieces the american red cross supports. and your second question, for someone to commit to come down, absolutely. we can make sure we've got a fantastic regional executive there in georgia where someone from the national headquarters would be happy to join you and facilitate around table. >> thank you so much madam, and i appreciate that commitment. looking forward to working with you. my next question is for mr. hancock. mr. hancock, [inaudible] ? >> yes. >> excellent. so, mr. hancock, georgia holds about 24 million acres of forest and woodlands, approximately 91% of this forest is privately owned.
7:56 pm
georgia therefore has more privately owned acres of corporate land than any other state in the nation. and i have heard consistently from private forest land owners in georgia who are struggling to adapt and respond to natural rosters that the resources are not in place at the federal level to ensure that they are may hold and can continue with their work in the cultivation of what is a crop after for, example, a major tropical storm that falls forest or a major fire. and as we anticipate increasingly severe natural disasters like hard games or wildfires due to climate change, we will have to commit greater resources to protecting and cleaning up forest lands and remediating damage to forests, conducting site preparation and replanting. i discussed with miss pipa the 12 billion dollars in coastal resilience investments in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. fortunately, we were also able to help secure -- and i want to
7:57 pm
give a shout out to senator robert warnock, my colleague, for his efforts on this front as well. more than five billion dollars in the bipartisan bill for forest management. can you please share, mr. hancock, your perspective as a local environmental 19 resources management professional, what georgia managers and owners of fortress forestry can do to better prepare for natural disasters and what the federal government can do to better support private landowners of forest? thank you. >> yeah, i think the answer to that is in preparedness. and preparedness starts with identifying answers and potential [inaudible] , like a talked about with flood mapping, two thirds of the floodplains in the country that are not mapped. but the idea of the national [inaudible] hazard mapping program is that
7:58 pm
[inaudible] map should be showing all hazards. and so that would fit in with the forestry [inaudible] in georgia, that maybe, these flood maps [inaudible] hazard would help people me more prefer more prepared to [inaudible] know these disasters are potential [inaudible] so having data that makes for maps is critical. and one example is precipitation frequency estimates that as something that is typically [inaudible] no, [inaudible] 14, and have those 40 [inaudible] four updating that is very disjointed and each part of the country has a different method of getting money from states to help them [inaudible] from the federal government. showing up in a program and making it whole across the
7:59 pm
nation and their points of the country where the rainfall that is [inaudible] 50 years old. if we could have a consistent program and update that, say, like every five years, fema might be able to [inaudible] better or [inaudible] disaster. it would make mapping these disasters much more [inaudible] and accurate. so, i think that's the answer [inaudible] is having better data to prepare for these type of disasters. thank you, senator ossoff. i would like to take this opportunity to thank our witnesses for joining us today and this discussion. as we commemorate national preparedness month, it's important we take the time to prepare from for disaster.
8:00 pm
this is increasingly important does climate change increases both the frequency and the severity of extreme weather events in our country. i want to thank our witnesses for their testimony as well as thank all first responders across our country as they have been working to address a very challenging covid-19 pandemic as well as all of the other disasters that we fake. i also want to thank ranking member portman for holding this hearing. and for all of the great work we have been doing. the record for this hearing will remain open for 15 days until 5 pm on october 14th, 2021, for the submission of statements and questions for the record. this hearing is now adjourned. this hearing is now adjourned. [inaudible]
8:01 pm
[inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible]
8:02 pm

5 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on