Dec 12, 2011 (Congressional Documents and Publications/ContentWorks via COMTEX) --
Washington, D.C. - The Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications has passed, by voice vote, legislation to improve the federal emergency warning system and strengthen vital homeland security grant programs.
The Subcommittee passed the bipartisan H.R. 3653, the "Integrated Public Alert Warning System Modernization Act of 2011", introduced by Subcommittee Chairman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), which amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to modernize and implement the National Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) to ensure timely and effective distribution of alerts and warnings.
Additionally, the Subcommittee passed the bipartisan H.R. 1411, the "Metropolitan Medical Response System Program Act of 2011," introduced by Bilirakis, which authorizes the Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS), to provide assistance to State and local governments to prepare for and respond to public health and mass casualty incidents resulting from acts of terrorism, natural disasters, and other man-made disasters.
Bilirakis said: "It is essential that, during an emergency, the federal government promptly and widely distribute informative alerts to the public. This legislation ensures that these alerts are disseminated via an effective and modernized system. It is also important that the federal government support local efforts to prepare for and respond to public health and mass casualty incidents, which is why authorizing the effective MMRS grant program is the right thing to do."
Specifically, H.R. 3653 requires the Secretary to establish common protocols and standards for the system, routine methods for testing, and increased system capabilities such as alerts for diverse modes of communication.
Additionally, the legislation requires the Secretary to ensure the system is able to reach the maximum number of individuals, is easily adaptable to future technologies, and subject to a bi-annual performance review report.
The bipartisan H.R. 1411 provides FEMA grants to State and local governments to strengthen medical surge capacity, enhance detection capabilities, develop mass triage plans, support information sharing, conduct training and exercises, and strengthen decontamination capabilities. The bill also requires the development of performance measures for the program to ensure effective use of this federal funding.
The subcommittee also passed H.R. 1129, the "Homeland Security Grant Management Improvement Act", introduced by Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee. The bill amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to prohibit requiring the use of a specified percentage of a grant under the Urban Area Security Initiative and State Homeland Security Grant Program for specific purposes.
H.R. 3653, H.R. 1411, and H.R. 1129 will be sent to the Full Committee for consideration.