On July 31, Representatives Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Tom Cole (R-OK) introduced the Preparedness and Risk management for Extreme weather Patterns Assuring Resilience (PREPARE) Act which addresses the need for government to become more resilient to extreme weather events. The bill (H.R. 5314) was introduced with 16 cosponsors, including five Republicans.

The United States has been hit by 20 major extreme weather events over the past two years, impacting 44 states. These events have killed more than 400 people and caused an estimated $130 billion in damages. Due to the mounting losses and continued federal exposure to these types of events, a 2013 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) placed extreme weather on the 2013 High Risk List. The report cited a 2011 GAO report that found “no coherent strategic government-wide approach” to dealing with extreme weather risk, though the 2013 report acknowledged that some progress had been made in the interim.

The PREPARE Act creates necessary structure within the government to help prepare for and respond to extreme weather events, building off GAO’s findings and President Obama’s November 2013 Executive Order on climate preparedness. The bill creates an overarching structure and process requiring federal agencies to implement resiliency and risk management priorities; facilitates the adoption of these practices at the state and local level; and establishes a regional coordination plan to ensure cost-effectiveness and stakeholder outreach. Because the bill is focused on better intra- and interagency planning, it does not require any new spending. Given the fiscal risk and mounting government debt from weather impacts, improved federal coordination and planning could save billions of dollars in the long run.

Rep. Cartwright called the bill a win for both parties and the American people, explaining that “preparedness and emergency planning is something we can do right now to ensure that we can recover rapidly and effectively after extreme weather strikes. Sitting back and doing nothing—when we already have experience with the high cost of inadequate action—unwisely exposes us to further unnecessary loss of life and property.”

Author: Jenifer Collins