(CNSNews.com) – Democratic presidential candidate South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg unveiled his disaster preparedness plan on Tuesday, making him the first 2020 presidential candidate to do so.
Buttigieg announced his plan in op-ed on Medium.com, writing that he was mayor for eight years in South Bend, Ind., during which time the area experienced “a 500-year flood and a 1,000-year flood.”
“They happened within 18 months of each other. Floods like this should occur once in a lifetime, but with climate change what was once rare has become routine,” he wrote.
“Climate change has only exacerbated the need to improve our disaster preparedness. The science is clear: catastrophic weather events are increasing in frequency, intensity, and impact. In the last three years, the U.S. has experienced a historic number of billion-dollar disasters, costing us an average of $150 billion per year,” Buttigieg added.
“In 2017, there was unprecedented demand for federal disaster assistance following three of the five costliest hurricanes on record. In 2018, Hurricanes Florence and Michael battered the Southeast, while the California Camp Fire was the deadliest in the state’s history,” he wrote.
Buttigieg’s disaster preparedness plan builds on his plan to combat climate change, which is titled “Mobilizing: America: Rising to the Climate Challenge.” It’s designed to “Improve coordination between and among communities and federal agencies to help people in need; create a culture of resilience, by fortifying our infrastructure right now and encouraging smart adaptations that will save money and lives when catastrophe strikes; and Improve immediate disaster relief for after a disaster hits.”
In order to improve coordination between communities and federal agencies, Buttigieg proposes setting up a “community-centered Disaster Commission” within his first 100 days in office, which will be responsible for streamlining applications and data collection, simplifying reviews and auditing, and creating a permanent source of disaster relief funding.
“People at their most vulnerable time should not have to navigate a bureaucratic maze in order to get a roof over their heads. But too often, coordination is siloed, preventing seamless response and recovery. Agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) often don’t share enough data to enable communities to effectively plan for or recover from disasters — in some cases, preventing assistance from reaching those most in need,” the mayor said.
“We need to figure out how to bring aid to people, not make people figure out how to access the aid they need. We must make it easy for people to get help and allow agencies, state and local government officials, and volunteer organizations to quickly and effectively coordinate a wide range of resources and programs. After Hurricane Sandy, a Cabinet-level task force was created to facilitate cooperation between agencies and state and local governments in the aftermath of that disaster. We need more of this kind of collaboration — on a permanent basis and at a larger scale,” he added.
To create a culture of resilience, Buttigieg proposes federal funding of community volunteer programs, supporting community preparedness through education, supporting private sector partnership to help communities prepare for the future, and harnessing the power of existing technologies.
Buttigieg wants to fund resilience efforts through the innovative investment funds describes in his climate plan.
“The American Clean Energy Bank will have $250 billion of initial capitalization to provide loans, grants, credit enhancements, and loan guarantees to finance resilient infrastructure projects that create good local jobs,” he wrote.
Additionally, “The Global Investment Initiative will build U.S.-developed technologies in developing nations around the world. This $250 billion fund will match with $250 billion in private investment over ten years to partner on clean energy and resilient infrastructure projects that use American technology and are built by American companies.”
He also plans to establish next-generation Regional Resilience Hubs, “which will encourage community leaders, the private sector, and academia to develop innovative solutions and provide grants to the most promising ideas.”
Buttigieg proposes reforming catastrophic weather insurance by launching “a National Catastrophic Extreme Weather insurance program to balance more catastrophic risk with the private sector, thereby reducing the need for emergency appropriations, increasing the speed at which families and communities receive money to rebuild, and incentivizing communities to invest in resilience.”
Furthermore, he plans to “update FEMA’s flood insurance map technology and regularly update the maps nationwide so that they accurately reflect risk and can help communities plan for the future.” He also wants to “reinstate the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard to encourage common sense building practices and work with Congress to enshrine it in statute” and “support loan programs that incorporate resilience and mitigation.”
To improve immediate disaster relief, Buttigieg proposes increasing the number of FEMA disaster workers, build a government-wide Surge Capacity Force, offer job protection and proper training for FEMA reservists, upgrade FEMA’s capabilities to connect with first responders and rapidly deploy community Wi-Fi hotspots for survivors,” and upgrade 911.
Because the first call in a disaster is often to 911, we need to ensure our 911 networks can withstand disaster scenarios. Today’s voice-centric 911 networks can be overwhelmed and disrupted by high call volumes in a disaster, as occurred during Hurricane Katrina. That is why experts recommend America upgrade to a Next Generation 911 call (NG911) system and why I have previously announced plans to do so.
NG911 will modernize emergency calling by providing a resilient system capable of re-routing calls and receiving text, multimedia, voice, and location data during disasters. I will support 911 authorities in upgrading their networks to NG911, including by funding local training, and will require originating service providers to deliver NG911 calls.