Today, Congressman David Wu held a hearing to call for immediate improvements in early warning systems and disaster mitigation technologies at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
"None of us will soon forget the recent images of tragedy and destruction out of Japan," said Wu. "Though Oregon sustained millions of dollars in damages from the tsunami, we were extremely lucky that a disaster scenario did not occur this time. I am grateful to our well-prepared emergency management teams for facilitating an orderly evacuation. However, I also have significant concerns about faulty tsunami sirens and conflicting information about the size and timing of potential waves. We cannot wait until after the unthinkable happens to invest in new technologies that can save thousands of lives."
Congressman Wu questioned witnesses from DHS and other organizations on the status of interoperable emergency communications technologies, which allow first responders from different jurisdictions to coordinate their efforts. A key challenge to implementing these lifesaving technologies is the slow progress of adopting technical standards, a major focus of Congressman Wu's work in Congress. He pressed officials from DHS's Science and Technology Directorate to outline their agency's integration and adoption efforts.
"Our first responders risk everything to save lives during an emergency. They depend on streamlined technologies to stay informed of developing dangers and in touch with their colleagues," Wu said. "The Department of Homeland Security and partner agencies must strengthen efforts to complete standards development and support innovative breakthroughs before the next major disaster strikes."
A leader in Congress on disaster mitigation issues, Congressman Wu authored the Natural Hazards Risk Reduction Act of 2010, which passed the House of Representatives on March 2, 2010. This bill authorizes funding across several agencies, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology and National Science Foundation, to support research on predicting and mitigating fallout from natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires, and windstorms.