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Emergency Managers Lobby for FEMA Reform

Hurricane Katrina revealed cracks in the national emergency management system, and the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) now are urging the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to include the authorizers' compromise Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Bill as part of HR 5441, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill for FY 2007.

"The results of a weakened emergency management system have been made clear to all," said Mike Selves, president-elect of IAEM. "It is time to restore FEMA's resources and authority before another catastrophic event happens."

Some of the key provisions in the bill – from IAEM's perspective – include:

  • It maintains the FEMA name and identity. FEMA has many dedicated and hardworking employees and was once one of the most respected agencies in government and with leadership and the help of Congress it can be again.
  • It requires the FEMA administrator to have a demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management and homeland security.
  • It elevates the level of the administrator to Deputy Secretary at Executive Level II
  • It directs the administrator of FEMA to serve as the principal advisor to the president, the Homeland Security Council and the secretary of Homeland Security for all matters relating to emergency management.
  • It rejoins preparedness in FEMA. Preparedness is what emergency managers do every day. It is an integral part of the emergency management system. Notes a statement from IAEM, "A coach would not want two teams – one which did all the training and exercising and a separate one that just waited to play the championship game."
  • It gives some protection to emergency management functions in FEMA, such as that given the Coast Guard to prevent people and resources being siphoned off into other parts of the agency.
  • It limits the role of the principal federal official. Although IAEM would prefer that the position of principal federal official be abolished since "it leads to confusion and bureaucratic layers,"the limiting of the role is "a great improvement" in the organization's opinion.
  • It strengthens FEMA regional offices.
  • It authorizes the Emergency Management Performance Grant at $175 million over the FY 2007 appropriated amount.
  • It contains language to raise the caps on repair and replacement assistance for housing for disaster victims. This corrects an unintentional problem created in the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 and is a much-needed change, according to IAEM. It will allow disaster victims to return to their homes faster and will save in payments for other accommodations.
  • It contains a provision to provide a sliding scale for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which will provide more mitigation opportunities than currently available to reduce future losses. A recent Congressionally mandated study concluded that a $1 spent on mitigation saves $4.

IAEM represents emergency management and homeland security professionals for communities, state and federal disaster officials, private sector, non-governmental organizations and others involved in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from all types of disasters including acts of terrorism.

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