Congress Extends Work on Emergency Management Reforms

Article excerpt

With Senate-appointed conferees already chosen for the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2007 (HR 5441), and the House conferees still being considered, both bodies continued to take action to enhance federal emergency management programs before adjourning for the Congressional summer recess.

Before the August break, a Senate panel approved legislation that would make changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the full House voted to establish an emergency communications office at DHS.

Another Senate panel held a hearing on emergency preparedness and response under the Stafford Act--which authorized federal emergency disaster response activities and aid--with witnesses representing several federal agencies and emergency managers.

In House action to adopt the 21st Century Emergency Communications Act of 2006 (HR 5852) and in action by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to pass the Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 (S. 3721), emergency communication would be headed by an assistant secretary. This official would have authority to deny homeland security grants for interoperability efforts if state and local governments do not submit proper plans or do not meet voluntary equipment standards.

The legislation responds to communications problems faced by first responders after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina and during several other previous disasters.

During debate in the House on HR 5852, some House members noted the need for additional funding for the purchase of interoperable equipment. …