(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 []



                         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 
  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 
  I ask my colleagues to support this legislation and urge the House 
Leadership to bring this bill to the floor for its swift consideration.