Washington, D.C. —To address unique challenges older Americans face during natural disasters, U.S. Senator Susan Collins authored an amendment that passed the Senate unanimously. Her amendment, which was included in the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019, would authorize the creation of a national advisory committee to identify ways to better prepare and care for older Americans during a disaster. The bill now awaits consideration by the House of Representatives.
Following Hurricane Irma, which caused the deaths of 12 seniors in a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, and Hurricane Harvey, which trapped 18 Texas assisted living residents in waist-deep floodwaters for hours in 2017, Senator Collins, the Chairman of the Aging Committee, first introduced legislation to establish the National Advisory Committee on Seniors and Disasters.
“As we have learned from natural disasters such as Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, some of our neighbors – especially seniors – face many obstacles during a crisis. We must focus on the attention older adults may need,” said Senator Collins. “This amendment would help ensure that local, state, and federal officials are adequately equipped to care for the most vulnerable members of our communities during a natural disaster.”
Senator Collins’ provision would establish a National Advisory Committee on Seniors and Disasters. The 15-member panel would be appointed by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and composed of federal and local agency officials, as well as non-federal health care professionals with expertise in disaster response.
Once established, the panel would be charged with providing guidance to local, state, and federal officials on how to better prepare seniors for an emergency, how to better evaluate their health needs during an emergency, what activities should be carried out when an emergency is declared, and how to help seniors through the long process of recovery.
In September 2017, Senator Collins led a hearing to examine policies and procedures for sheltering in place, evacuating, and relocating our most vulnerable citizens before disaster strikes.