Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr.’s (NJ-10) State and High-Risk Urban Area Working Group Act (H.R. 4509). The legislation requires decision-makers involved in disaster response planning to work together to gain a complete understanding of a community’s vulnerabilities so that homeland security grant investments can be prioritized appropriately.
“Over the past three-and-a-half years, I have served as the Ranking Member of Committee on Homeland Security’s Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee,” said Congressman Payne, Jr. “In this capacity, I have seen benefits realized, across the nation, from DHS’ homeland security grant programs. Communities throughout my district – from Newark to Jersey City – have built robust capabilities to prevent, protect against, and respond to terrorist attacks and natural disasters with State Homeland Security Grant and Urban Area Security Initiative grant funding. As successful as DHS’ homeland security grant programs have been, however, more needs to be done to ensure those who are responsible for various aspects of disaster response plan, train, and exercise together before a disaster strikes.”
A lack of coordination among the full spectrum of those involved in community response, however, undermines effective disaster response planning. The State and High-Risk Urban Area Working Group Act (H.R. 4509) would address this issue by ensuring that decision-makers, including school officials and public health officials, work together to gain a complete understanding of a community’s vulnerabilities so that investments can be prioritized appropriately. The legislation would facilitate a “Whole Community” approach to disaster planning by defining more broadly who should be on State Planning Committees and Urban Area Working Groups.
“Any time there is a lack of coordination between the various individuals and entities charged with protecting our communities, we leave ourselves vulnerable to disasters and emergencies,” said Congressman Payne, Jr. “The State and High-Risk Urban Area Working Group Act ensures that the right people are at the table when decisions are made about how federal homeland security grant funds are to be spent at the state and local level. Its passage marks a meaningful step forward in protecting our communities against vulnerabilities and keeping them prepared for disasters.”
- Require any State or high-risk urban area receiving funding under the State Homeland Security Grant Program or the Urban Area Security Initiative to establish a State planning committee or urban area working group to assist the State in preparation and revision of threat and hazard identification and risk assessments and determining effective funding priorities for grant funds;
- Require State planning committees and high-risk urban area working groups to include representatives from each of the following stakeholder communities: (1) local and tribal government officials; (2) emergency response providers (fire service, law enforcement, emergency medical services and emergency managers); (3) public health officials and appropriate medical practitioners; (4) individuals representing educational institutions, including elementary schools, community colleges, and other institutions of higher learning; (5) State and regional interoperable communications coordinators, as appropriate; and (6) State and major urban area fusion centers, as appropriate;
- Require members of the State planning committee or urban area working group to be from the counties, cities, towns, and Indian tribes within the State or high-risk urban area, including rural, high-population, and high-threat jurisdictions; and
- Clarify that States or high-risk urban areas that already use a multi-jurisdictional planning committee or commission that meets the requirements of this act are not required to create a new State Planning Committee or urban area working group.