Amendment Addresses Seniors' Dependence on Public Transportation During an Evacuation

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, today successfully amended S. 4, Improving America's Security by Implementing Unfinished Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act, to include a provision in the bill that will ensure that public transportation workers are trained to meet the evacuation needs of seniors in the event of a crisis.

"It has been almost two years since our nation reeled from the tragic and shameful images of seniors abandoned during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Sadly, we now know that 71 percent of the people who died were older than 60," said Chairman Kohl. "Cookie cutter emergency plans are of little use to seniors, especially those who depend on others for assistance in their daily lives. We need specific plans, programs, and information for all seniors facing emergencies."

Statistics show that a high percentage of seniors rely on public transportation. Furthermore only public transportation has the capacity to move millions of people and provide first responders with critical support in major evacuations of urban areas. Chairman Kohl's amendment was cosponsored by Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota and has the support of the American Public Health Association.

Last year, as Ranking Member of the Special Committee on Aging, Kohl held a hearing to examine how prepared our nation is to care for seniors in the event of a national emergency. The conclusion of the hearing was that the country is woefully unprepared to meet the unique needs of our seniors in the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or other emergency.

Chairman Kohl also submitted another amendment which would have ensured that the evacuation, transportation, and health care needs of the elderly are incorporated into both the security plans and training exercises of those entities receiving a Homeland Security Grant. Additionally, Kohl was an original cosponsor of an amendment submitted by Senator Wyden of Oregon, which would test a voluntary registry system through which seniors can list where they live, their transportation limitations, their health needs, and whether they may need help getting food and other supplies during an emergency. The amendment would have created a pilot project for local emergency management agencies to set up and test these registries, allowing first responders to locate and care for seniors before and during emergencies.

Unfortunately, these two crucial provisions intended to safeguard the needs of seniors were not included in the final bill due to partisan efforts to limit Democratic amendments. Chairman Kohl plans to pursue legislation to address these evacuation and health care needs of America's seniors during a national emergency.

S. 4, Improving America's Security by Implementing Unfinished Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act, passed by a vote of 60-38.