King Opening Statement at Hearing on Impacts of Changing Climate
WASHINGTON – Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery Subcommittee Ranking Member Peter King (R-N.Y.) today delivered the following opening statement at a subcommittee hearing entitled, “Assessing the Homeland Security Impacts of a Changing Climate.”
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. From the wildfires on the West Coast and tornadoes in the South, to the hurricanes along the eastern seaboard of the United States, no area of the country is immune to the devastating effects of natural disasters.
However, pre-disaster mitigation efforts by policy makers, individuals, first responders, and emergency preparedness professionals ensure that no geographic region of the country is left unsupported.
Pre-disaster mitigation has the potential to limit the negative effects of natural disasters.
Mitigation activities include upgrading and strengthening existing structures from all-hazards, identifying sustainable flood and erosion control projects, purchasing hurricane shutters to resist wind, and managing vegetation to reduce potential fire fuel.
The FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program helps communities implement hazard mitigation measures following a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration, to reduce the risk of loss of life and property from future disasters.
To receive funds through this grant program, FEMA requires that each state complete a State Hazard Mitigation Plan.
New York’s 2019 State Hazard Mitigation Plan highlights five goals and objectives to include: coordination between federal, state, and local entities; the protection of existing properties; increasing awareness of hazard, risk, and mitigation capabilities among stakeholders, citizens, and elected officials alike; preserving or restoring the functions of natural systems; and, to build stronger infrastructure.
Not only do mitigation activities aim to reduce deaths, injuries, and property damage, they also have the potential to limit the economic impact of disaster recovery efforts.
A recent report by the National Institute of Building Sciences found that by designing buildings to meet 2018 building code standards, the national mitigation benefit-cost ratio is $6 to $1 invested for floods, $10 to $1 invested for hurricanes, and $12 to $1 invested for earthquakes.
The report also found that the impacts of 23 years of federal mitigation grants provided by FEMA, the Economic Development Administration, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, result in a national benefit of $6 for every $1 invested.
Unfortunately, our focus on emergency preparedness oftentimes occurs in the aftermath of a natural disaster, which is too late.
However, as we’ve hardened our defenses preemptively in the event of a terrorist attack, we must also be prepared for the devastation of a severe weather event.
The reality is that natural disasters will continue to occur, and we should use every disaster as an opportunity to learn and improve our mitigation capabilities to decrease the loss of life and damage to our homes and infrastructure.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on how to continue to improve our preparedness and mitigation capabilities in the face of the unpredictable nature of disasters and emergencies.
Contact: Nicole Hager