For Immediate Release
(Washington DC) – SmarterSafer.org today introduced its new Disaster Assistance Framework and urged Congress to pursue a holistic approach to federal disaster response so the government is better prepared to provide adequate relief after storms such as Hurricane Sandy.
The federal government continues to address natural disasters after they occur in an ad-hoc, one-off, inadequately coordinated way. The result is that disaster-funding decisions are made with insufficient time and political will to weigh concerns about long-term safety, mitigation and resiliency. Disaster preparedness and assistance should not be political. Federal resources should be used to reduce risk to Americans in high-risk areas, avoid harming natural buffers to storms, and protect taxpayers from wasteful and inefficient spending.
SmarterSafer.org’s Disaster Assistance Framework proposal includes: increasing community resilience by prioritizing sustainable, environmentally friendly mitigation; reducing risky development and unsustainable investments in disaster-prone areas: and maximize cost effectiveness of federal disaster funds and incentivize investment of non-federal resources.
“We cannot avoid the fact that we will face large-scale natural disasters in the future, nor that the federal government will be involved in the response in significant ways,” said R.J. Lehmann, R Street Institute Senior Fellow and Public Affairs Director. “But we can do much more to plan for these contingencies, ensure that federal spending is effective and efficient and that it doesn’t inadvertently subsidize and encourage the very risks it is trying to combat.”
“By encouraging communities to work to reduce the impact of natural disasters before they happen, we’ll ensure the protection and restoration of natural spaces that reduce flooding while providing a myriad of other benefits ranging from local recreation areas to pollution reduction and more,” said Joshua Saks, Legislative Director at the National Wildlife Federation.
“Reforming our approach to disaster planning and recovery just makes good fiscal sense,” said Steve Ellis, Vice President of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a national nonpartisan budget watchdog. “Instead of scattershot, ad hoc approach after a disaster strikes, we should planning for these events all along and make communities and infrastructure more resilient and less vulnerable. Every dime of taxpayer funds spent on disaster recovery should help ensure that we don’t have to spend that dime again in a future disaster.”
“Increasing community resilience is critical when adapting to increased threats from natural disasters. Communities that engage in mitigation before a storm, and have a plan ready and in place to guide recovery after a storm, recover faster and are more resilient in the long term,” said John Seebach, Senior Director of Federal River Management at American Rivers. “Proactive planning to utilize natural buffers like floodplains, wetlands, and dunes will make communities rebuild wiser and stronger in the long term.”
Supporting mitigation will over time, decrease the disaster assistance needed by communities. SmarterSafer.org proposes states should be required to adopt comprehensive mitigation plans as a precondition to receiving disaster assistance. Good data and planning at the state and local level will ensure responses to disasters are effective and rebuilding occurs in a way that reduces risk.
Risky development in disaster-prone areas encourages building and rebuilding after inevitable catastrophes occur. Under the Framework, communities participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) would conduct vulnerability assessment of their critical facilities. This will help secure vital infrastructure such as electrical systems, water treatment facilities, and hospitals in flood-prone areas.
To maximize cost effectiveness of federal disaster funds the coalition said Congress should consider implementing heightened standards proposed by both the Government Accountability Office and the Obama Administration to ensure funds are spent efficiently and in ways that reduce risk, the coalition said. SmarterSafer.org said planning ahead to provide support to volunteer efforts, including Citizens Corps, the federal government could actually reduce overall disaster spending.
Please find SmarterSafer.org’s Disaster Assistance Framework HERE.
# # #
Contact: Matt Englehart