Legislation Introduced in Congress to Create National Disaster Safety Board

A newly introduced U.S. Senate bill entitled the Disaster Learning and Life Saving Act by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) is a significant milestone in the field of disaster investigation. For the first time, the United States would have a comprehensive disaster investigation response capability, able to quickly begin inquiries into a variety of natural catastrophes. Currently, the U.S government only has such capabilities in the specific fields of aircraft and rail crashes (the National Transportation Safety Board), building failures (the National Construction Safety Team), and large explosions (the Chemical Safety Board). A National Disaster Safety Board (NDSB) would conduct inquires into the myriad of other disasters including wildfires, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Investigation reports would be used to inform not only the public, but legislators as well.

Recently, John Jay College Fire Science Professor Glenn Corbett (and Christian Regenhard Center for Emergency Response Studies Board Member) along with Drexel University History Professor Scott Knowles published an article in Issues in Science and Technology entitled “For the Covid-19 Era, a United States Disaster Investigation Board,” https://issues.org/disaster-investigation-board-for-covid-19-failures/ calling for the same type of disaster inquiry capability. Both professors were contacted by Senator Schatz’ staff and provided commentary on the draft bill.

RaCERS’ first working paper, issued in 2009, advocated for independent review of disaster response for federally-declared disasters. Given the terrible ongoing impact of disasters both in terms of lives lost and damage inflicted, the need for a National Disaster Safety Board is clear and urgent.

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