Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have announced they will introduce The Disaster Learning and Life Saving Act of 2020. The bipartisan legislation will create a new permanent and independent board to study the underlying causes of disaster related fatalities and property damage nationwide. The National Disaster Safety Board (NDSB) will make recommendations to all levels of government on how to improve the resiliency of communities across the country.
When considering the legislation, Senator Schatz reached out to several government agencies and professional organizations including ASCE. A phone call was arranged between the Senator’s senior staff and ASCE President-Elect Jean-Louis Briaud, Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, Dist.M.ASCE to give ASCE’s prospective on the proposal. Following the conversation, ASCE followed up with a letter to express ASCE’s support and willingness to work with the Senator and his colleagues to create a new program that will promote resiliency and help to protect the public health, safety, and welfare.
The NDSB would be modeled after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates plane crashes, major railroad accidents, and commercial highway accidents. The NTSB is tasked with studying the underlying causes that may lead to similar accidents in the future – and its reviews and recommendations are the gold standard internationally. The NTSB has saved lives: the rate of air travel fatalities has decreased more than 99 percent since 1960. The NDSB would apply the best principles of the NTSB to natural disasters.
Similar to the NTSB, the NDSB would be independent. Its seven members will be chosen for their experience in emergency management, public health, engineering, social and behavioral sciences, and experience working at the state and local level and with vulnerable communities. The goal would be to offer policymakers a path forward to build more resilient communities. A major tenet of the bill would be technical assistance to support jurisdictions implementing its resiliency recommendations.
Companion legislation, H.R. 8569, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Katie Porter (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA). The text of both bills should be available soon on Congress.gov.