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Government Executive: Porter reintroduces a bill that would form a natural disaster safety board

Porter reintroduces a bill that would form a natural disaster safety board

Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., reintroduced a bill Friday to establish a new, nonpartisan agency to investigate the impact of natural disasters in the U.S. and apply policies to better protect against them.

The Natural Disaster Safety Board Act would create a new agency in the model of the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates civilian transportation accidents, and would examine factors like preparedness and emergency response methods. 

“Devastating disasters in California, and across the country, put lives at risk and cause billions in damages each year,” said Porter, in a statement. “As our climate changes and natural disasters worsen, we need a dedicated agency to review natural disasters and protect Americans from their harms.”

The board would be charged with reducing loss of life, injury and economic injury caused by future incidents by learning from past ones, such as the underlying factors affecting communities. 

By researching the facts and situations that led to loss of life, human injury and economic injury during a natural disaster, under the legislation, the board would offer recommendations for mitigating the effects in future disasters and issue reports on the “pre-incident resilience or vulnerabilities of the incident area or population.”

Porter first introduced the bill in October 2021, where it was later incorporated into the larger Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act, which passed the House in July 2022. The bill never made it out of the Senate.

This year’s version is again cosponsored by Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., and has a companion bill in the Senate sponsored by Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Bill Cassidy, R-La.

“Lowcountry residents are no strangers to natural disasters,” said Mace, in a statement. “By creating an independent board dedicated to reviewing and preparing for natural disasters, we can ensure a comprehensive and non-partisan examination of our response to such events. Its recommendations will play a pivotal role in enhancing our ability to keep people safe in the face of future natural disasters.”

Porter’s office cited August’s wildfires in Maui, which saw the deaths of at least 100 people and caused $5.5 billion in damage, and other recent natural disasters as again driving the need for establishing a national agency to investigate these events.