House Passes Payne-McSally Legislation to Strengthen U.S. Disaster Preparedness

Apr 26, 2016 Issues: National Security

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation introduced by Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) and Congresswoman Martha McSally (AZ-2) to enhance U.S. disaster preparedness and response capabilities. The legislation, Promoting Resilience and Efficiency in Preparing for Attacks and Responding to Emergencies (PREPARE) Act (H.R. 3583), included several of Congressman Payne, Jr.’s priorities that will improve emergency communications planning and coordination.

“From major mass transit arteries and chemical facilities to homes and schools, my district is vulnerable to a variety of man-made and natural disasters,” said Congressman Payne, Jr. “Our community’s first responders must be prepared to respond to every worst-case scenario. That is why I was proud to work with Congresswoman McSally to author the PREPARE Act.

“In my capacity as Ranking Member of the  Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications, I have had the opportunity to hear from first responders and emergency managers across the country, as well as doctors, public health experts, and individuals advocating to ensure the needs of children are incorporated into disaster response plans,” Congressman Payne, Jr. added. “So I am pleased that the PREPARE Act includes my provision to improve the way the needs of children are integrated into emergency planning.”

The PREPARE Act includes the following key priorities advocated by Congressman Payne, Jr.:

  • State Wide Interoperable Communications Enhancement Act, which passed the House as a stand-alone measure in July 2015. This legislation requires states to have a Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC) or to delegate activities related to achieving interoperability to other individuals.
  • Language to address communications training gaps at the Department of Homeland Security. This provision requires all radio users to receive initial and ongoing training consistent with the DHS Interoperable Communications Strategy, which was required under legislation Congressman Payne, Jr. authored in 2015.
  • Amendment directing FEMA to appoint a technical expert to ensure that children are incorporated into disaster preparedness, planning, response, and recovery activities. This provision requires FEMA to integrate the needs of children into its activities to protect against natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters.
  • Amendment requiring homeland security grantees to have maintenance plans in place before using Federal money to procure important emergency response equipment. Applicants for Urban Area Security Initiative and State Homeland Security Grant Program grants seeking funds to purchase equipment must develop equipment maintenance plans that identify which entity is responsible for maintaining such equipment.

The PREPARE Act also:

  • Requires DHS to establish a medical countermeasures program to facilitate personnel readiness and establishes a voluntary anthrax vaccination program for first responders;
  • Guarantees homeland security grant program recipients three years to use their grant funds, which will help ensure that limited funds are spent effectively and deliberately; 
  • Directs FEMA to include grant management best practices in its annual Notice of Funding Opportunity; and
  • Charges FEMA to provide information to Congress on how grant funds are closing capability gaps.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr.’s State and High-Risk Urban Area Working Group Act (H.R. 4509). The legislation requires decision-makers involved in disaster response planning to work together to gain a complete understanding of a community’s vulnerabilities so that homeland security grant investments can be prioritized appropriately.