U.S. Needs a National Strategy for Mitigating and Recovering from Disaster

Fairfax, Va. – Fire Chief John Sinclair, IAFC president and chairman of the board, testifying today during a Congressional hearing on mitigating damage and recovering from disasters, said that the IAFC is concerned about the increasing number of disasters and the increasing costs of these disasters. He said there's a need to develop a comprehensive national strategy for addressing the problem.    

Sinclair testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, chaired by Rep. Louis J. Barletta (R-Pa.).

“Every disaster starts at the local level,” Sinclair said. “The local fire department usually is the first agency to respond on-scene during an incident and the last to leave. It is an all-hazards response force that must be prepared to respond to a variety of missions.

“The IAFC is concerned by the increasing number of disasters in the United States,” Sinclair continued. “Between 1960 and 1969, the average number of disaster declarations was approximately 19 per year. Between 2010 and 2014, this number skyrocketed to 67 per year, with a record 99 major disaster declarations in 2011.

“In addition, the costs of these disasters are increasing. Between 2009 and 2012, the average annual cost of federal wildland fire-suppression operations was $1.25 billion. For the following four years, the average annual cost increased by 32% to $1.84 billion.

“The nation must develop a comprehensive strategy for addressing this problem. The strategy must highlight the importance of investing in pre-disaster mitigation; ensuring an effective emergency response; and authorizing critical post-disaster mitigation.”

Sinclair discussed the importance of Congress to pass legislation this year to reauthorize funding for the AFG and SAFER Grant programs which are authorized through the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. In addition, Sinclair said, the IAFC is concerned about the sunset provision in each program’s authorizing statute, which would eliminate the programs in early January.

“We ask Congress to remove this sunset date to ensure that the programs can continue to support America’s fire and EMS departments,” Sinclair said. Sinclair also emphasized the importance of Congress to pass legislation to reauthorize funding for the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Academy (NFA) to ensure that the NFA remains the nation’s premier fire and EMS educational institution.

Sinclair testified alongside R. David Paulison, former FEMA administrator and IAFC president.

Read Sinclair’s full written testimony.  

Watch the subcommittee video of hearing.

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About the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders. Learn more
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