CONGRESSIONAL ACTION ALERT

Senators Needed for Newly Created Natural Hazards Caucus

Posted: March 7, 2000


This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies.

IN A NUTSHELL: Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK) and John Edwards (D-NC) last week sent out a letter inviting their colleagues to become charter members of the Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus. The two senators recently agreed to co-chair this informal organization of members of Congress focused on finding ways to better prepare for and help mitigate the costs of natural disasters. Creation of this caucus has been the goal of a working group of organizations seeking to raise congressional awareness of natural hazards issues. AGI, the American Geophysical Union, and several other AGI member societies are part of the work group. In order to make this caucus a success, we need geoscientists to contact their senators and encourage them to join. The text of the "Dear Colleague" letter is included in this message along with supporting information to be used as talking points or for letter-writing.

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For over a year, AGI has been working with member societies AGU, the Geo-Institute of ASCE, and the Seismological Society of America along with many other organizations to establish a Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus. The caucus concept arose from the Public Private Partnership 2000 forum series, specifically a forum on real-time hazard information co-sponsored by AGI, AGU, and the IRIS Consortium. The forum series was a joint effort by the White House Subcommittee on Natural Disaster Reduction and the Institute for Business and Home Safety to explore how the federal government could establish partnerships with state and local government, the private sector, and academia to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters. Establishing a congressional caucus -- an informal organization of senators and representatives with shared interests -- was seen as a way to foster partnerships between these entities and Congress in order to build lasting support for hazard mitigation as a public value.

Already, Senators Frank Murkowski (R-AK) and Thad Cochrane (R-MS) have joined the caucus. To maintain this momentum, additional senators need to hear from their constituents. The rationale and plans for the caucus can be found in the appended "Dear Colleague" letter, an accompanying fact sheet, and a handout developed by the work group. This material may be useful as talking points or the basis of a letter to your senators. Please reference the "Dear Colleague" letter, which includes contacts in Stevens and Edwards offices whom staffers can reach for further details. Telephone numbers and addresses for your senators can be found on the web at http://www.senate.gov. Letters should be brief and use the format:

The Honorable __________
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator:

Please let us know of any contacts you make -- govt@agiweb.org, fax 703-379-7563, voice 703-379-2480 ext. 212, or AGI Govt Affairs Program, 4220 King Street, Alexandria VA 22302. And if you are from either Alaska or North Carolina, please take a moment to thank Senators Stevens and Edwards for their leadership on this issue.

A list of work group organizations is also appended -- if your society is interested in joining this effort, please contact either David Applegate (703-379-2480, ext. 228; applegate@agiweb.org) or Peter Folger at AGU (202-777-7509; pfolger@agu.org).


Letter from Senators Stevens and Edwards to All Senators

Dear Colleague:

We write to ask you to join with us in forming the Natural Hazards Caucus.

We have been working with a variety of groups including the American Red Cross, the Institute for Business and Home Safety, the American Geological Institute, and the American Geophysical Union to examine what concrete steps should be taken to improve our disaster preparedness and responses. Our goal is to provide ways the local, state and federal government can better prepare for and help mitigate the costs of natural disasters.

Each year, Congress appropriates billions of dollars in emergency assistance to states hit hard by earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. We invite you to join us as we begin this important dialogue on steps the federal, state and local governments can take to lessen the severity of these disasters.

Over the course of the next few months our goal is to hold several fora on the issues of disaster preparedness, mitigation and response. Through meetings and consultation with outside groups we hope to develop some constructive proposals that we can all support. Please join us. For more information, please contact Butch Burke of Senator Stevens' staff at 224-3004 or Laura Godwin of Senator Edwards' staff at 224-3154.

Sincerely,

Ted Stevens               John Edwards


Natural Hazards Fact Sheet Accompanying the Stevens/Edwards Letter


Work Group One-Page Handout on Caucus

The primary goal of establishing a congressional natural hazards caucus is to develop a wider understanding within Congress that reducing the risks and costs of natural disasters is a public value. That requires educating Members and staff about the costs of natural disasters to their districts and states, and the benefits their constituents will realize through greater efforts to understand, prevent, and mitigate natural disasters. The caucus would provide Members with an opportunity to demonstrate their concern and commitment to reducing hazard losses.

Jurisdiction for natural hazards programs is spread among many committees in Congress. Each committee only handles a piece of the overall efforts to prevent and mitigate natural disasters. A caucus can provide the "big picture" to interested lawmakers and their staff, and give them the opportunity to see how the issues that fall within individual committee jurisdictions fit within a larger national effort. Typical caucus events include Capitol Hill luncheon briefings, roundtable discussions, special forums, receptions, and events targeted to a subgroup of the caucus. Events can also be structured so that they also provide a forum for raising the visibility of a hazards-related topic with the media and American public.

A successful caucus reflects a strong partnership between its congressional members and groups outside Congress that share similar interests. A working group of organizations has come together with a common desire to reduce the toll -- both human and financial -- of natural hazards and to enhance the nation's ability to recover from those events. We plan to work together to help our nation become more resilient to natural hazards.

Shared objectives for the caucus include:

The working group is currently seeking charter members of this caucus. We would be happy to discuss this proposal further or provide additional information. Please contact David Applegate at the American Geological Institute (703-379-2480, ext. 228; applegate@agiweb.org) or Peter Folger at the American Geophysical Union (202-777-7509; pfolger@agu.org).


Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus Work Group


Alert prepared by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

Sources: Offices of Senators Ted Stevens and John Edwards

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Uploaded March 7, 2000


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