Bill Seeks to Create New National Disaster Safety Board

Oct 12, 2020 | What's New

Modeled after NTSB, new board will investigate major national disasters, make policy recommendations

A newly introduced bipartisan bill will create a new permanent and independent board to study the underlying causes of disaster related fatalities and property damage nationwide. Introduced by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the National Disaster Safety Board (NDSB) will make recommendations to all levels of government on how to improve the resiliency of communities across the country.

The formation of this board has long been a priority of ASFPM, and the association was one of the supporting organizations listed in the press release issued by Sen. Schatz.

“A key to continually improving our programs, policies, and actions to reduce flood losses in the nation is to monitor and evaluate flood events,” said Chad Berginnis, CFM, executive director of ASFPM.  “We cannot make meaningful change until we understand what is driving flood losses. This is why ASFPM has long called for and strongly supports the creation of a National Disaster Safety Board.”

Currently, policymakers rely on a patchwork of studies, after-action reports, audits, and media reports to understand the impacts of natural disasters, which are inconsistent and vulnerable to political pressure.

The NDSB is modeled after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates plane crashes, major railroad accidents, and commercial highway accidents. The NTSB is tasked with studying the underlying causes that may lead to similar accidents in the future – and its reviews and recommendations are considered to be a gold standard internationally. The NTSB has saved lives: the rate of air travel fatalities has decreased more than 99 percent since 1960. The NDSB would apply the best principles of the NTSB to natural disasters.

Similar to the NTSB, the NDSB would be independent. Its seven members will be chosen for their experience in emergency management, public health, engineering, social and behavioral sciences, and experience working at the state and local level and with vulnerable communities.

Low-income communities, communities of color, the elderly, and people with disabilities all suffer disproportionately in natural disasters. The NDSB includes a special office to focus on disaster impacts to these communities and will ensure that recommendations are made to protect them moving forward.

Rather than assigning blame, NDSB reviews and recommendations will seek to offer policymakers a path forward to build more resilient communities. The NDSB will work collaboratively with affected state and local governments, ensuring they have the opportunity to comment on reports and recommendations before publication. The NDSB will also offer technical assistance to support jurisdictions implementing its resiliency recommendations.

Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and Garret Graves (R-La.).

Download an overview of the National Disaster Safety Board bill. For a copy of the entire bill, click here.