Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) announced the reintroduction of the “Disaster Learning and Lifesaving Act” in the Senate on May 27. The bill was also introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Katie Porter (D-CA). First introduced in October of 2020, the bill would create a new permanent and independent National Disaster Safety Board (NDSB) to study the underlying causes of disaster related deaths and property damage across the country. The legislation has garnered support from disaster advocates and researchers from across the country, including NLIHC, which signed on to a letter to members of the House of Representatives. Other signatories included almost 50 national, state, and local organizations and researchers, as well as two former FEMA administrators, Craig Fugate and Brock Long.
The National Disaster Safety Board (NDSB) is modeled on the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that investigates plane crashes, major railroad accidents, and commercial highway accidents. Rather than working to assign specific blame for disaster failures, the NDSB would focus on how to improve disaster recovery systems to avoid future loss of life and major property damage. The legislation would also ensure that reports and recommendations would be publicly available, tasking the board with providing technical assistance to jurisdictions attempting to implement them. Low-income households commonly experience the worst effects of disasters while also receiving the least amount of assistance to recovery afterward. By attempting to identify the underlying causes of such catastrophes and implementing improvements, the NDSB would mitigate the risks facing low-income households during major disasters.
“With climate change causing more frequent and severe natural disasters, we need more data to make sure our communities are resilient and prepared to respond to the next crisis,” said Senator Schatz in a press release announcing the reintroduction. “Our bill creates a new independent board to investigate major natural disasters and gives policymakers and the public a full accounting of what happened and what should happen next.”
In the same press release, Senator Cassidy referenced Louisiana’s struggle to recover from multiple hurricanes that struck the state last year. “I was just in Cameron and Calcasieu parishes, and it is clear, lessons have been learned from past hurricane efforts that could help, but they have not been implemented” said Senator Cassidy. “I proposed, with Senator Schatz, a Natural Disaster Safety Board to memorialize these lessons so that in future storms, wherever they may be, recovery of life and community is faster and better.”