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H.R. 3791, H.R. 3820

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - 10:00am
2318 Rayburn House Office Building

Opening Statement By Chairman Bart Gordon

Today, the Committee will consider two important bills. Both of these bills address pressing national needs, and both are the product of bipartisan cooperation and stakeholder input.
The first bill the Committee will consider today is H.R. 3791. This bill reauthorizes the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG) and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Program. Over the past nine years, these programs have provided over $5 billion to purchase firefighting equipment and training and for communities to hire additional firefighters. This Federal support is even more important in this tough economy as local officials struggle to provide services in the face decreasing budgets. 
H.R. 3791 is the product of much hard work by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the National Fire Protection Association, and the Congressional Fire Services Institute. And it represents the consensus of these organizations on how these programs should be improved. I am pleased that the bill has been endorsed by so many of these groups, and I look forward to working with them as we move to get this bill enacted. 
The second bill the Committee will consider today, H.R. 3820, reauthorizes two important programs that support research, development, and technology transfer activities to mitigate against the potential damage caused by earthquakes and severe windstorms. The impact of natural hazards on communities can be devastating.
In the past two years in my district in Middle Tennessee, tornadoes have killed 24 people and injured over 100. Making households, businesses, and communities resistant to these forces of nature can save lives and billions of dollars.
H.R. 3820 reauthorizes the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program and the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program. The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, known as NEHRP, has been responsible for the development of seismic codes and standards to enable buildings and other infrastructure to withstand earthquakes. 
This reauthorization addresses some of the biggest challenges in earthquake mitigation—developing methods to retrofit existing structures, secure infrastructure, and, most importantly, convincing people in earthquake prone areas to invest in preparedness and mitigation measures.    
H.R. 3820 also reauthorizes the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program. The goal of this reauthorization is to enable this program, created in 2004, to achieve the same successes as NEHRP. 
Support for R&D for wind hazard mitigation has lagged behind that for other hazards. The activities authorized in this bill can lead to improved building practices that will protect life, and contain the ever increasing costs of hurricanes, tornados, and other severe windstorms.   
At a Technology and Innovation Subcommittee hearing this June, witnesses testified that much of the challenge in natural disaster mitigation was not in more research, but in implementing the knowledge that already exists. This bill includes a strong focus on the lessons learned from different natural hazards and encouraging the implementation of those lessons.     
I strongly support both of these bills and would urge a yes vote.

  • H.R. 3791, The Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2009
  • H.R. 3820, The Natural Hazards Risk Reduction Act of 2009
111th Congress