January 22, 2009 - Issue: Vol. 155, No. 13 — Daily Edition111th Congress (2009 - 2010) - 1st Session
INTRODUCING THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY CENTERS ESTABLISHMENT ACT; Congressional Record Vol. 155, No. 13
(Extensions of Remarks - January 22, 2009)
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[Extensions of Remarks] [Pages E122-E123] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] INTRODUCING THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY CENTERS ESTABLISHMENT ACT ______ HON. ALCEE L. HASTINGS of florida in the house of representatives Thursday, January 22, 2009 Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Madam Speaker, I rise today to reintroduce the National Emergency Centers Establishment Act, a bill that I first introduced in the 109th Congress. Many of us share the belief that the Federal Government's response to Hurricane Katrina was disorganized and inadequate. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, was far too slow to respond and evacuees were left stranded in massive shelters with egregious standard-of-living conditions. Sixteen months following the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina, more than 13,000 residents who were displaced by the storm were still living in trailers provided by FEMA. Eighteen months after Katrina, half of the homes in New Orleans still did not have electricity. Shortly thereafter, FEMA informed Congress that 60,000 families in Louisiana still lived in 240 square foot trailers--usually at least 3 people to a trailer. The sluggish and derisory reaction of our Federal Government to disaster victims affects me personally. In 2004, four hurricanes ravaged my home State of Florida, all of which literally destroyed parts of the counties in my district. In the immediate and long-term aftermath, our communities saw FEMA's shortcomings. More than 18 months after Hurricane Wilma struck in 2005, citizens were still residing in trailers labeled on the outside ``FEMA.'' [[Page E123]] The lack of natural disaster preparedness efforts and temporary housing options for disaster-stricken citizens only exacerbated an unbearable situation. Deficient recovery responses have led to elongated recovery rates in my district and across this Nation. Two main problems--increasing the availability of temporary housing in times of national emergencies and improving training and preparedness for national emergencies--must be resolved to ensure that the humanitarian catastrophe that occurred in the gulf coast and continues to happen today will never occur again. We have an obligation to better prepare and more adequately respond to the needs of communities hit by natural disasters. We have a responsibility to ensure that basic needs of disaster victims are met immediately following the devastation. My legislation establishes six National Emergency Centers throughout the United States. The Centers will be used, first and foremost, to provide temporary housing, medical and humanitarian assistance, including education, for individuals and families displaced due to an emergency. The Centers will also serve as a centralized location for the training and coordination of first responders in the instance of an emergency. In addition, the Centers will improve the coordination of preparedness, response, and recovery efforts between governments, private companies, not-for-profit entities, and faith-based organizations. The National Emergency Centers will be located on military bases, with a preference wherever possible for those installations closed during the most recent Base Realignment and Closures, BRAC, round. I am proposing these sites because the necessary infrastructure to house, feed, educate, and care for evacuees over an extended period of time is already in place, thus limiting the cost and time needed to construct these facilities. Madam Speaker, our Nation was not prepared for the disastrous hurricanes that struck Florida and the gulf coast in 2004 and in 2005. The establishment of National Emergency Centers will go a long way to ensuring that our response to national emergencies are not as disastrous as the disasters that created the emergencies in the first place. I ask my colleagues to support this legislation and urge the House Leadership to bring this bill to the floor for its swift consideration. ____________________