Augusta Free Press: Spanberger, Katko introduce bill to strengthen emergency preparedness


Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and John Katko (R-NY) have introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the United States’ ability to prepare for and respond to threats to public safety and national security.

The Analyzing Disaster Vulnerabilities and Applicable National Capabilities for Emergencies (ADVANCE) Act would make sure the federal government is better able to predict threats and mitigate their interconnected impact on critical infrastructure, such as the food supply, healthcare systems, and national defense.

Overseen by the Department of Homeland Security, the National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center conducts modeling, simulation, and analysis of the nation’s critical infrastructure. NISAC assesses risks and vulnerabilities to our nation’s infrastructure, and forecasts and models consequences in disaster scenarios such as hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, and chemical spills. The bipartisan ADVANCE Act would require NISAC to conduct hazard exercises twice a year to test and improve our government’s ability to simulate the impact of natural disasters and public health crises on critical infrastructure.

The exercises would enhance hands-on training while providing insight into how government agencies can better predict and prepare for crises. The bill would also require NISAC to report annually to Congress on the impact of natural disasters and public health emergencies on critical infrastructure.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored that the threats our nation faces in the 21st century will rarely be one-dimensional. The infectious disease outbreaks and natural disasters we have to contend with can have a domino effect on multiple areas of our nation’s critical infrastructure — everything from the farmers who supply our food to the military bases that keep Americans safe,” said Spanberger. “To overcome these complex challenges and prepare for the threats to come, our government needs to be ready for many possible scenarios. We need to strengthen our ability to predict future threats, analyze the risks, and mitigate the consequences. Our bill would help ensure that the United States is never caught unprepared in a crisis, and that our decisionmakers have the analysis they need to make informed decisions to protect the American people.”

“I am proud to introduce this critical legislation that will ensure our government is well-equipped to handle future natural disasters and public health crises,” said Katko. “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for increased coordination and updated procedures in the face of events that threaten our nation’s critical infrastructure.  This legislation will ensure our government is fully prepared to make informed decisions and mitigate the effects of any future public emergency.”

Prior to the pandemic, key DHS analyses on the impact of pandemics on critical infrastructure — including food supply, healthcare, telecommunications, and transportation — were halted, leaving the U.S. government less prepared to respond to COVID-19. The ADVANCE Act’s hazard exercises and Congressional reporting requirements, which must account for public health emergencies in addition to natural disasters, will help ensure critical capabilities and analyses are maintained, bolstered, and best set up to inform U.S. government decision making going forward.

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