The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a disaster recovery reform bill, which includes two measures spearheaded by U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy to reform the way the federal government helps communities prepare for and respond to natural disasters like hurricanes. Murphy’s first measure requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide guidance and training to state and local governments, first responders, and local health care facilities on establishing emergency plans to ensure patients at health care facilities are kept safe in the event of a major disaster. Her second measure requires FEMA to provide similar guidance and training so that hazardous waste facilities have emergency plans in place to prevent hazardous materials from being released into the environment and to respond swiftly and effectively if such materials are released. The broader bill in which Murphy’s provisions are included, called the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018, is expected to be approved by the Senate soon and then to be signed into law by the President.
“Florida was deeply affected by Hurricane Irma last year, and we’ll face similar storms in the future, so it’s critical that communities in our state are prepared to protect the public when natural disasters happen,” said Murphy. “My provisions in this bill will protect vulnerable patients at hospitals and nursing homes when a storm hits and will protect public safety and health if hazardous materials are released into the environment during a storm. I’m proud my bipartisan efforts will soon become law, and I will keep working with both parties to help Florida better prepare for and respond to future storms.”
During Hurricane Irma, 12 residents of a Hollywood, Fla., nursing home died from heat exposure when the storm knocked out the facility’s central air conditioning system.
Back in April, when the U.S. House was considering the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018, Murphy and U.S. Representative William Keating, D-Mass., successfully added these two provisions to the bill through the floor amendment process. When leaders from both chambers of Congress subsequently met to resolve the differences between the House version of the bill and the Senate version of the bill, the Murphy-Keating provisions were retained in the compromise bill.
Once the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 is signed by the President, 17 Murphy-led measures will have been enacted into law.