The Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018

It’s challenging at times to keep track of legislation relevant to any industry, especially when unrelated items are included in bills.  HR 302 is titled the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, so logically it starts off with a section on sports medicine licensure.  Luckily, the bulk of the bill is centered on aviation, but also happens to include substantial content on emergency management, titled the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018.

Sticking to the aviation side for a moment but also relevant to emergency management folks within that industry, there are a variety of provisions on both airport and airline safety.  There is also a small section on UAS/UAV.  Most notably a provision related to FAA emergency authorizations for drone use as well as one ordering the FAA to conduct a study on fire department and emergency service agency use of drones (§359).  The term for the study, as noted in the bill, is only 180 days, which isn’t a whole lot of time for government, directly or through a contract, to cover every one of the areas they are looking for in this study.  Hopefully the final time frame of this, if it passes, will be extended.

Most applicable to the emergency management community is Division D of this bill (§1201), titled the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018.  This is an important piece of legislation as it is actually an amendment to the Stafford Act.  The Stafford Act has, of course, been amended many times, but it’s worth while for all of use to keep a keen eye on these planned changes to ensure that the writings of political staffers are grounded in reality.  A few of the key points:

  • Authorization for 404 mitigation funding absent a disaster declaration for wildfire mitigation efforts
  • Providing building code and floodplain ordinance support following a disaster (402). This seems to dovetail in with 1241 on post-disaster building safety assessments.  1241 also includes a provision for having NIMS typed resources for these activities.
  • Public and non-profit facilities receiving a contribution fully equal to the federal share of the federal estimate of repair/replacement costs (406)
  • Various provisions related to flood insurance (406)
  • (1208) An interesting provision on providing guidance and annual training to governments and first responders on ‘the need to prioritize assistance to hospitals, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities…’ as a matter of what is essentially continuity of operations. This also includes guidance and training to these facilities on how they can prepare for their own continuity of operations, as well as a need to coordinate response plans across stakeholder organizations for same.
    • This seems partially to step on the toes of health care preparedness regulations from CMS, but also helps connect the dots necessarily to the whole community. I’m not sure about the need for ‘annual training’, as the administration and tracking of such is a nightmare (and likely unnecessary), but guidance would certainly be welcome.  Perhaps we will see a new Comprehensive Preparedness Guide come from this?
  • (1209) Guidance on evacuation routes in coordination with the Federal Highway Administration. The bill stresses consideration for resiliency of identified routes, special needs populations, public notification regarding these routes, and access to sheltering locations from the evacuation routes.
  • (1218) Establishes National Veterinary Emergency Teams based out of accredited veterinary colleges. Specifically, they are to deploy with USAR resources to provide care for canine search teams as well as animals impacted by the disaster.
  • (1228) Guidance to be issued in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration on the repair, restoration, and replacement of inundated and submerged roads.
  • (1236) A training requirement for governments, first responders, and facilities that store hazardous materials on the coordination of emergency response plans in the event of a local disaster.
    • This is an interesting requirement that is also, perhaps intentionally vague. It seems this would be directed at regulated SARA Title III facilities, but doesn’t specify them.  Is this intended to include community locations like pool supply, auto part, and painting stores?  Hopefully this gets fleshed out more to better communicate who it is intended to apply to. 
  • Increasing efficiency and reducing duplication of grant programs
  • (1244) A relevant provision directing FEMA to contract with the National Academy of Medicine to conduct a study and submit a report regarding best practices in mortality counts as a result of major disasters.
  • There were also a variety of other provisions making adjustments to IA, PA, and Hazard Mitigation programs in addition to what I had already listed.

While a great many bills die on the vine, HR 302 is certainly expected to move forward as it contains some pretty critical legislation.  Modifications, of course, are expected as this bill moves through the House, its sister piece of legislation moves through the Senate, the two versions are resolved, then eventually signed by the President.  The DRRA is something to keep an eye on, though, as it seems to impact all facets of emergency management as well as our relationships with stakeholders.

What are your thoughts on this bill?

Timothy Riecker, CEDP

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC℠