By Rep. Scott Peters
In October 2003, the Cedar Fire, the second largest wildfire in California history, devastated the northern communities of the cities of San Diego and Poway. Our community faced similar damage again in October 2007, during the Witch Creek Fire.
As a San Diego City Councilmember at the time, I remember firsthand the destructive impact of these fires on people’s lives. Together, these fires destroyed hundreds of homes, personal belongings and memories, and recovery costs were in the billions of dollars.
In my new capacity representing San Diego in Congress, I am aggressively pushing for the adoption of better preparedness measures. We can’t prevent natural disasters, but we can do more to lessen the costs to human life and property. Over the last two years the federal government has spent more than $136 billion on relief for hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, wildfires, and other extreme weather events. It’s time that the government stops working in a reactive way to natural disasters and instead gets to work efficiently helping states and localities find best practices to prepare, plan for, and more quickly recover from these events. We know that for every dollar spent now on disaster preparedness and resiliency, we can avoid at least $4 in future losses.
I recently introduced the Strengthening the Resiliency of Our Nation on the Ground (STRONG) Act with Rep. Pete King (R-NY) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL). This bipartisan legislation creates a unified strategic vision for community resiliency efforts in disaster situations, and provides communities with effective mitigation tools through the development of an information clearinghouse for state and local use. The STRONG Act also achieves long-term savings for taxpayers through the establishment of a federal interagency working group to maximize government efficiency in its support of state, local, and private sector resiliency efforts. We should be doing more to support our local communities with emergency management, communication, public health, and energy reliability in the event of an extreme weather event. And we should be discussing better building codes and stronger infrastructure to lessen the risks before natural disaster strikes. This bill is good governance. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The STRONG Act is endorsed by over 30 major organizations nationwide, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the American Planning Association. According to the American Planning Association, “The STRONG Act is a vital tool for making the government smarter and a better partner with local communities in mitigating the potentially devastating effects of extreme weather and natural disasters.”
Legislation like this is not only beneficial to San Diegans, but an example of how strong leadership can bring the parties together in Congress to develop solutions for the common good of all of our citizens. Washington is often far removed from the realities that everyday Americans face. I will continue to work across party lines to address issues like disaster resiliency that are important to San Diegans.
Peters serves the 52nd District of California which covers much of central San Diego County, including Poway, Rancho Bernardo, 4S Ranch, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Sabre Springs and Rancho Penasquitos.