Spanberger, Katko re-introduce bill to strengthen emergency preparedness

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(© W. Scott McGill – stock.adobe.com)

Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and John Katko (R-NY-24) have re-introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the nation’s ability to prepare for and respond to public safety and national security threats – including future pandemics.

Starting in 2005, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center produced detailed analyses of what would happen to critical infrastructure sectors and systems – including from transportation and hospitals – if a pandemic hit the United States, in addition to similar analyses for other types of threats or disasters.

But according to news reports in March 2020, DHS stopped updating the modeling and analysis effort focused on understanding the impact of pandemics on critical infrastructure in 2017, leaving the federal government without critical insights as the COVID-19 crisis began.

To improve the federal government’s preparedness in the face of future disasters, the Spanberger-Katko Analyzing Disaster Vulnerabilities and Applicable National Capabilities for Emergencies (ADVANCE) Act would resume these critical capabilities and assessments, ensuring that they are maintained, bolstered, and best prepared to inform emergency preparation and response.

Specifically, the ADVANCE Act would direct NISAC to conduct hazard exercises twice a year to test and improve the federal government’s ability to simulate the impact of natural disasters and public health crises on critical infrastructure.

“During my time as an intelligence officer, better information meant better odds of preventing and mitigating threats on the horizon. As the COVID-19 crisis began, our government lacked the information it needed to make informed policy decisions and to work with state and local governments on an effective, coordinated response,” Spanberger said. “By bringing back – and bolstering – critical DHS modelling and assessments, the ADVANCE Act would strengthen our government’s ability to respond to future public health crises and natural disasters. Our government’s first priority must be keeping our communities safe, and this bipartisan legislation would equip our agencies with the tools, data, and hands-on training they need to respond to future emergencies and save lives. I’d like to thank Congressman Katko for his continued partnership in improving our government’s ability to keep our nation prepared and safe.”

“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,” Katko said. “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.”

In addition to requiring biannual hazard exercises, the bipartisan ADVANCE Act would require NISAC to report annually to Congress on the potential impacts of natural disasters and public health emergencies on critical infrastructure. These hazard exercises and reports would not only enhance the country’s preparation and resilience in the face of specific emergencies, but they would also help ensure that the federal government is prepared to assess and manage simultaneous and interconnected threats, such as the domino effects of infectious disease outbreaks on the U.S. food supply and disasters made more severe and frequent by climate change.

Spanberger and Katko first introduced the bipartisan bill in October.

Click here to read the full bill text.


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