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WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, today hailed the passage of H.R. 1, Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 Conference Bill, which included four of his provisions to ensure the needs of seniors are met in national, state, and local emergency preparedness plans.
"These provisions send a strong signal to states and communities engaged in emergency planning that seniors must be a priority and cannot be forgotten or ignored during mass evacuations," said Chairman Kohl. "We need specific plans, programs, and information for all vulnerable populations facing an emergency or disaster."
Chairman Kohl worked with Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN), Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) to include the following two provisions:
  • Title I:  Amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to ensure that as state, local, and tribal governments develop their mass evacuation plans they include specific procedures to inform the elderly before and during an evacuation. This will assist older individuals and their families in appropriately preparing for an evacuation during an emergency or other disaster.
  • Title IV:  Amends the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 to ensure that the National Exercise Program is designed to address the unique needs of older individuals.  The National Exercise Program was originally created to test and evaluate our nation's level of preparedness and capability to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from national disasters.  This will keep older individuals on the forefront of national emergency planning.
Chairman Kohl also worked with Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT) and Ranking Member Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) to include the follow two provisions:
  • Title XIV: Ensures that public transportation workers are trained to meet the evacuation needs of seniors in the event of a crisis. The Secretary of Homeland Security will establish a program to conduct security exercises, which will be scaled to meet the needs of specific transportation systems and must take into account the needs of seniors who utilize those systems. This is particularly important since so many of our seniors utilize public transportation for access to their every day needs.  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.  This provision has the support of the American Public Health Association.
  • Title XIV: Requires transportation agencies that receive grant funding in high-risk areas to implement mandatory security plans that include appropriate evacuation and communication measures for the elderly as a component of each agency's plan.
H.R. 1 passed the Senate last night by a vote of 85-8. It is expected to pass the House of Representatives today, at which time it will be sent to the President's desk to be signed and become law.
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