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tv   Hearing on the Threat of Natural Disasters  CSPAN  October 18, 2021 12:41pm-2:00pm EDT

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his life is marked by several firsts turkey was a countries first black national security adviser, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and later the first black secretary of state. he was a 35 year army veteran. colin powell died at the age of 84. >> the u.s. senate returns to session this week. when they reconvene senators will resume consideration of a couple of judicial nominations. votes scheduled for the afternoon. later in the week lawmakers are expected to vote on whether to debate a bill on elections and voting rights. watch live coverage of the senate today starting at 3 p.m. eastern on c-span2. you can also watch online at and with our new video out c-span now. >> a hearing now on how more frequent
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>> [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> the committee will come to order. every september, we observe national preparedness month, a critical reminder that planning ahead for a natural disaster car help save lives. preparedness is becoming more and more important as we continue to see increasingly severe storms and weather events
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that create life-threatening situations and cause serious damage to our communities. driven by climate change, these extreme storms, hurricanes, wildfires, and floods, are becoming more frequent, and more destructive every year. at the same time, our federal, state, and local emergency responders are also working to address the ongoing public health crisis caused by the covid-19 pandemic. as a result of these compounding circumstances, our disaster response resources, personnel, and volunteers are stretched thin, making emergency response and recovery more challenging and more expensive. severe storms, extreme floodingi and devastating wildfires cost our nation billions of dollars every year. but we can strengthen our disaster response efforts, and save taxpayer dollars, by making smart, forward-looking investments in mitigation before a disaster strikes.
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in fact, studies have shown that every $1 invested in hazard mitigation or prevention saves s an average of $6 in recoveryry costs for taxpayers. as we continue to see worsening natural disasters, and the dire consequences they have on our communities, we must take swift action to upgrade our infrastructure and ensure our roads, bridges, homes, and businesses, are resilient enough to withstand increasingly severe weather events. that is why i worked to pass the storm act, which was signed into law earlier this year, to help provide states and local communities with access to the resources they need to make these critical these critical investments. i was pleased to secure $500 million in initial funding for the program, as part of the senate passed bipartisan infrastructure bill, and look forward to the house considering that bill soon. the storm act is the initial
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funding which will help kickstart loan programs in every state to hook communities begin to reduce their natural disaster risk. in addition to creating these new opportunities to help communities prevent widespread damage, we must also ensure that our disaster recovery efforts are working effectively. most importantly, we must have enough personnel and volunteers to assist in disaster recovery efforts. breaking -- raking member portman and i introduced legislation this year that would help the federal emergency management agency to ensure that we are able to recruit and retain enough reservists to respond to emergencies i providing important employment protections. i look forward to continuing to advance this bill so we can help reduce the burden that makes it difficult for fema to recruit and train emergency personnel. we have also seen firsthand how our disaster recovery resources do not always reach the
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communities that are most in need. whether they are recovering from a hurricane or other severe weather events, or seeking resources related to covid-19 pandemic response, too many of our most vulnerable communities do not have equal access to this vital assistance. communities of color and other underserved communities often disproportionately face the consequences of disasters, and our disaster response efforts typically provide slow or inadequate relief to those communities. last congress or worked on legislation that would begin to strengthen our disaster response for all americans by creating an office of fema that would be focused on ensuring equitable access to disaster assistance, and i look forward to continuing that effort to ensure that no matter when or where a disaster strikes, help will be readily available. i appreciate our witnesses for joining us here today and i look forward to discussing these issues and other efforts that will help strengthen our
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disaster preparedness and response efforts all across our country. ranking member, you are recognized for your opening comments. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i thank the witnesses for being here today. we are pleased to have a witness from ohio with us who has done a great job in ensuring that we have preparedness in our own state, but also as we work with the national emergency management association. thank you for being here. this is an important hearing. we have the opportunity to talk about preparedness to deal with these natural disasters. there are more and more of them. we have seen over the past couple of years the most damaging wildfires, droughts, and hurricanes in our recent history. so we need to be better prepared. we need to ensure that fema is there to respond effectively. fema is the principal agency
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that coordinates the federal response of these natural disasters. just to remind people, we have a decentralized this to this country. fema does not provide the boots on the ground for the most part. it is local responders who are first on the scene when disaster strikes. this is reflected in the fema's emergency management strategy, it is federally supported, state managed, and locally executed. i've seen firsthand the importance of this local preparedness and response in ohio on a lot of occasions over the past couple of decades, representing southern ohio and now the whole state. we have had flooding, tornadoes, and other emergencies. in 2019, we had a series of tornadoes that touched down on western ohio, damaging or destroying hundreds of homes and businesses in the miami valley and displacing a lot of my fellow ohioans. the most extreme damage occurred in the dayton, ohio area and the surrounding areas. incredibly, and thanks in large
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part to the alert systems and training of our local responders, while 166 people were injured, we did not have a single loss of life in the dayton area that night. if you had seen the disruption as i did, you would be amazed people were not killed. it is amazing how quickly people got out of their homes, and were able to avoid even worse situations. we did have one casualty from the tornado that touched down further north. in the immediate aftermath, my wife, jane and i, drove from our home to dayton, ohio early in the morning, right after the tornado had hit. we went to thank people to show our support for the first responders, not to get in the way, but to ensure they knew that we were there to support them. and to talk to constituents who had been displaced. we saw amazing devastation, downed trees, property damage,
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but we saw the impressive work being done by our local first responders, as well as immediate response from our state partners, and federal partners who are already on the ground, or on their way. mungo murray county sheriff rob streck took the lead in the dayton area for much of the damage. he had a command center set up immediately. i talked to him and his team in the central ohio strike team, which is an urban search-and-rescue team out of columbus, ohio. i'm eager to talk more about the use our team around the country. we passed legislation to help our teams but they do an awesome job, and respond not just in ohio, but from ohio and all over the country. most recently with the hurricanes in the south southeast, but also with regard to 9/11, they were there on the spot. and that was ohio task force one. we also went to see the red cross and what they were doing, went to a shelter that had been set up, talked to constituents about the situation they were facing. less than 12 hours after the
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tornadoes hit, the red cross was already providing nude, water, shelter, and a place for people to stay who had lost their homes. this security and a place to stay was absolutely critical to the people i talked to, as they prepared to rebuild their lives. some from scratch. within a few weeks of the event, fema has three active centers open across the miami valley with caseworkers, mental health workers, people who can help with businesses. they also established an area for children to decompress, and helping people with disabilities. this was all set up already quickly. i had a chance to tour these. i can assure you it would have been much worse, but for the preparedness of our region. and the preparedness our state had in place, and the quick response from the first responders. i'm proud of southwest ohio for coming together so quickly. but as an example i've seen around the state of preparedness done right.
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again, to some americans, thank you for being here today and the crucial role you play for the national emergency managers association, in addition to your work and ohio. you were leading the ohio emergency managed agency and 2019 when the tornadoes hit. i saw the good work your folks were doing. i look forward to all of our witnesses today. and look forward to discussing the importance of properly preparing for our natural disasters per thank you, mr. chairman. chair peters: thank you, senator portman. it is the practice of this committee to swear and witnesses. if the witnesses will stand and raise your right hand, including those joining us by video. do you swear that the testimony you will give before this committee will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god? >> i do. chair peters: thank you. you may be seated.
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our first witness is sima merick . she serves as the executive director of the ohio emergency management agency and has been an employee of the ohio department of public safety for nearly 35 years. she began her career as a dispatcher for the ohio state highway patrol in 1985, and held other positions within that division until 1996 where she began her career preparing the emergency management and mitigation techniques still widely utilized today. she was appointed by governor kasich in 2011 to be assistant director of the ohio emergency management agency, and served in that role until being appointed in june of 2015 as the executive director. welcome, you may proceed with your opening remarks. sima: thank you. ranking member portman, and distinguished members of the committee for inviting me here today.
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senator kirkman, it is good to see you again. it feels like a few weeks ago that we were together. good to see you, sir. as president of a emergency management association, i'm proud to be representing the state emergency directors. territories come in the district of columbia. to have success addressing the rest of natural hazards, three fundamental pieces must be examined. these include how states help themselves, how we help one another, and the state federal partnership. first, states help themselves by understanding fema as a natural first responder, and by maintaining a good working relationship with our local emergency managers. according to data from a report with our local counterparts, in fiscal year 2020, state and local emergency management organizations managed 19700 and 52 events without federal
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assistance. additionally, 27 states maintain their own state-funded assistance programs to help citizens and businesses when a disaster or emergency does not meet the criteria for federal assistance. second, states help one another through efforts such as the emergency management assistance compact. celebrating its 2050 or of service, emac has deployed 40,000 personnel in state assistance since 2060 -- 2016 alone. it was emac during the 2016 republican national convention that trained and equipped officers and other states to assist in managing the significant event. finally, the federal state partnership is one of the bed rocks of emergency management. whether it is the declaration process, shaping national
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policy, programs like emergency management performance grants, this partnership is seen in every corner of our profession. e mpg in particular is a great example. the only program in the suite of grants that requires a 50-50 match. many states and local government over match this program. we are grateful for the conduct -- they continue to support congress as shown by providing the supplementals. in my written statement, i provide examples of how ohio is building capacity through programs like our state rebate program, the joint exercise with the ohio national guard, and providing virtual training opportunities. for today's hearing, i wanted to be sure i provide some recommendations on fema's future. first, we must clarify the role of emergency management. as it relates to events not warranting an expiration. fema should be the consequence manager for the federal government.
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let fema be the coordinator of federal resource instead of forcing us at the state level. second, we must ensure diversity and inclusion in emergency management. fema wants to work doing all current emergency management laws and policies through an equity lens, including identifying the intended and unintended effects of current policies. finally, let's work to reduce the complexity of the fema public assistance program. for too long, fema has talked about simple find the disaster programs only to continue adding to existing procedures. federal disaster programs and processes are too complex, they are slow, sometimes bureaucratic and in many cases, compete with state and local governments with their best efforts for individuals and communities. last year, we have reiterated to fema our desire to work with them on all of these priorities
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and hope that we can work with you as well to find common ground in making fema and the emergency management profession more accessible to those intended -- to those it is intended to serve. thank you for your time today and i look forward to any questions you might have. chair peters: thank you. our next witness is jerry hancock. mr. hancock serves as the stormwater and floodplain programs coordinator for the city of ann arbor, which is located in the great state of michigan. he is appearing before the committee today on behalf of the state floodplain managers association. he has an established record of specialized experience over 30 years in environmental planning. his previous roles have included serving as the oakland county drain commissioner, land development coordinator, and natural resources and environmental planning coordinator. mr. hancock, welcome to the committee. you may proceed with your opening remarks.
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mr. hancock: good morning. thank you. thank you, chairman peters and ranking member portman, and members of the committee. jerry hancock, stormwater coordinator for the city of ann arbor, michigan. i hold the executive director of the michigan stormwater association. i'm honored to be testifying today on behalf of msf eight, and also the association floodplain managers. my written statement identifies over a the threat is worsening nationwide in my state of michigan. nationally costs are doubling every day and in the past decade here in michigan we've experienced numerous major flood events.
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notable are our 500 year le flood in 2014 and again this year. there was also a 500 year flood in the inland area that caused too damn careers last year and in 2018 there was a 10,000 year flood where i went to college. for the balance of my time i'm going to be highlighting five areas of preparedness and mitigation that can be improved . first hazard mitigation and risk assessment. simply put we can't mitigate if we don't know current and future hazard areas are located. for hurricane managers this means we must get a nationwide program of updating rainfall and have a robust set of flood that
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identifies all flood hazards as well as the national flood mapping program. today only one third of the nations planes are mapped and those maps don't include ps things like elevation and future conditions of flood areas that were required by the national flood mapping program. our flood maps in washington were out of date shortly after they were adopted due to obtaining better topographic and precipitation data prior to the maps coming out.second, preparedness and mitigation are informed through good planning and priorities. we have developed and maintained a local hazard mitigation plan for the last 50 years and recently received a building
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resiliency infrastructure funding and next up hazard mitigation plans identified priorities for mitigation strategies such as the major structural reduction project that we just repeated or which we obtained a billion-dollar hazard mitigation program. however other communities were not so lucky to receive hazard mitigation funding. states set aside were too small. we should ensure that predisaster mitigation programs provide a more balanced funding approach to support fstate and local mitigation priorities. third, preparedness is enhanced through datasharing, better informing the public and for example the federal government has been slow to
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publicly provide recommendation maps and were required by the national flood mapping program. here in michigan where cascading dam fields north of the springs resulted in flooding that went beyond 500 year floodplain, having those irrigation maps publicly available might have resulted in less damage and injury . pursuant to the evolvingissue is the hindrance of flood insurance claims data from fema . he requires communities to analyze flood insurance claims information to complete hazard mitigation plans and to participate in the community rating system but this however is a class six committee. we are not providing the flood insurance data necessary to successfully complete the analysis or is not providing it in atimely manner .
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to be a prepared nation we must have adequate territorial deand tribal ability. to have a full-time floodplain manager position like mine where multiple communities do not . states could help fill this capacity gap byproviding technical assistance . we must have a successful program in community assistance programs in the past . and ip for example. this program could be replicated, and be made available to maintain capacity of state hazard mitigation programs. finally preparedness and mitigation must be equitable. reducing the complexity of applying for and administering fema flood mitigation grants as mentioned in the previous discussion could assist in
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equity ability. again i will go into much more detail on these and other management recommendations thank you . >> thank you mister hancock. our next witness is jennifer pickup. mischievous serves as vice president of disaster programs and the american red cross. she initially began her career with the red cross and 2004 after volunteering for the disaster action team in raleigh north carolina. within one year she became the team's captain and swiftly moved to a role as caseworker or local families. her tenure includes working as the operation program leave, director of volunteer mobilization in support of national headquarters in washington dc and ceo of the
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american red cross of central florida. miss pipa you may proceed with your opening remarks and welcome to the committee thank you chairman peters and distinguished members of this committee. 90 for the privilege to be able to testify today and share some of the impacts we are seeing across the nation as we begin to respond to disasters . disaster preparedness response and recovery are the heart of our mission and these needs are continuing to grow especially in vulnerable communities. these communities are disproportionately impacted by climate related disasters . through this lens we see climate change as a worldwide humanitarian emergency . a defining threat in the 21st century. my testimony submitted to the record today i'm going to talk about how the red cross responds to these disasters alongside partners at all levels including the federal government and to talk about our mission to alleviate some
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suffering. the increasing rate ofclimate driven disasters has become an unsustainable burden on the most vulnerable . notably low income communities of color, elderly and people of disabilities. with climate change that was very recently episodic and just a few series of acute events havenow become a chronic issue with devastating impact . this situation is only exacerbated by other bubbles that disproportionately impacted families daily. a growing level of income disparity, challenges with affordable housing, lack of access to health care in and food insecurity. these disparities left many families struggling well before a disaster ever happened and indeed most often the e focus of the american red cross were serving disasters which left no resources prior to the disaster. in the fiscal year 20 2063 percent of the clients that
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we helped her either at or below the federal poverty level. i want to share a couple statistics that inform our planning at the red cross as we start to forge forward with this climate change initiative. the number of climate related disasters as increased sixfold in the past 40 years. by 2030, we anticipate responding to a significant climate emergency every 10 to 12 days, i near constant state of response leaving our communities in a chronic state of recovery. i want to share one anecdote that's not in my written testimony. i have the opportunity to visit louisiana this past weekend and spent some time at the red cross outreach where we talked with clients who have been impacted . it was on mom and her 12-year-old daughter and as they talked to our caseworker they talked about how the root of their home was
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totally torn off and their home was no longer livable. so the natural question to them was where are you staying now? this mom and dad and 12-year-old daughter said sometimes she's a good big sister and sometimes she's not to her two younger brothers simply said we're staying in our car. they had to protect what little things they could salvage from the disaster, from the hurricane so they had to stay there to make sure they were protected. that's just one story of thousands that we see every year when we respond to disasters. what the red cross is starting to do now is using data to inform how we manage our response activities. we look at social vulnerability index. this allows us to see communities that were already li struggling prior to a disaster. we then take the forecast track and can apply that so we know where we need to be first, where we are most
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likely going to be longest and wherepeople need the most help to begin their recovery journey . this is not an only red cross 'organization. we can't do this without partners both at the federal level and other nonprofits. and in louisiana alone we h got to work with the naacp and islamic relief. these partnerships are critical. these help extend our reach into communities to make sure every community that's impacted by disaster as the opportunity to connect with us and other agencies tomake sure their recovery begins . so change isn't about the number of inches that felt of rain in an not about the category of the storm . it's not about the acres that bird in a wildfire. it's about a family of five living in their car. it's about people who were struggling before this disaster ever happened and need more help now. so we are privileged to be to ty share with the red cross is ei doing.
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i want to take the opportunity to thank our donors who through their generosity deliver the red cross mission. most importantly i want to thank our volunteerswho give the one thing that's most precious of their time to the american red cross . we look forward to working s. with you as other branches of the government enface these other nonprofits and for-profits because together we need tohelp these communitiesrecover. i look forward to o your questions . thank you >> thank you . our final witness is john butler. chief butler serves as the chief of the fire and rescue departments in fairfax virginia. prior to his time as chief he served 26 years with the howard county department of fire and rescue services and 21 years as a united states marine including two combat tours . he brings a wealth of . experience having all roles eras a firefighter paramedic, battalion chief emergency medical services chief and administrative chief before being named howard county's first african-american fire
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chief in 2014. chief butler, welcome to the committee. you may proceed with your questions . >> thank you and good morning chair peters and ranking g member portman. i'm john butler, chief of fire and rescue department at fairfax virginia and second vice president of the international association of fire chiefs. i appreciate the opportunity today to discuss how the nation can address the threat of worsening national disasters. america's fire and emergency services response are approximately 1.1 million firefighters in the us serving with more than 30,000 for your volunteer and combination fired departments. where usually first on the scene at last to leave. the nation is facing a wider variety of threatstoday and we had in the past . the pandemic along the more severe wildland fires system and increasing frequency of other major storms.
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even a national pandemic affects citizens in their homes with which puts the fire and emsservices on the frontline . the past 18 months have provided a real life test for the nation'spreparedness system and our public safety and staff have performed aerobically in the past few days . however wealso have found areas of improvement and new challenges . these include the reviewing the names for long-term incidents. reviewing long-term incidents, and many goods for incidents that last days or weeks. major incidents that take weeks two months especially when recovery operations are here. the national management system looks for command resources to supply personnel for long preview actions and secondly new partners must be included in planning. the pandemic demonstrated the
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need to include public health officials, utilities, public works, communications, transportation and other critical infrastructure disciplines must be included to prepare for hurricane tornadoes and wildland fires. we should be trained in incident command. there is a need to review mutual aid agreements and as the expectations of the party need agreements because the light fire departments found our neighbors were suffering from molar staffing shortages. their concern about the presenting resources are also for the nation for cure of exposure to the mutual thaid system needs tools like ifp's and maximum mutual aid systems can be used to move fire and ems.
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and also the reimbursement system needs to be re-streamlined. fire and ems departments can wait years for their reimbursing. fire and ems departments run shortages and personnel. has created shortages due to burnout, better job opportunities , violent your fire department and workforce challenges. volunteers are concerned about their families being forced to take time off from their full-time salaried jobs when they are affected. there also has to be some continued equipment shortages for basic equipment. including the semi conductor shortage has created fire apparatus management. eft and safer programs provide important funding to address these equipment and personnel issues. it provides magic grants to local fire departments in a
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peer-reviewed process. to address the threat of deploying disasters the ist for urges congress to support programs that have hazard mitigation grants and in addition we urge fema to support the adoption of up to standards. we know that models save lives and property loss. committeesshould engage in planning preparedness and training for potential disasters . the ifp's bow program and i'd also like to highlight the need to fund fema use. urban search and rescue saw our teams for local state partners. all three entities are facing funding challenges. finally, the we asked congress to experience leaders for fema. for example we asked president biden to place an experience fire service leader as fire administrator.
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over 18 months with the nation hasfaced wide variety of threats . the isc looks forward to working with the team to address these challenges. thank you forhaving me . >> thank you chief butler. as i mentioned in my opening statements, earlier this year the storm was passed and signed into law and the bill grants fema the authority to work with states and tribal governments to establish a revolving fund that can be used by local governments to carry out mitigation projects and reduce the natural disaster risk that they face. and that includes flooding it includes shoreline erosion, high water levels . mister hancock as you mentioned in your opening comments are home state of michigan has faced record levels of flooding this year as well as we've seen some extreme shoreline erosion all across the great lakes. i like you to comment as to how important accessing funds
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like that will be contained in the storm act is to local governments and also how important it is for local governments to have discretion as to which mitigation projects they would like to conduct. >> that's a good question. the idea of providing funds through the state revolving fund has been around for a while but it's been initially it was eliminated to a sanitary system but about 15 years ago opened up for storm water and so in ann arbor we used that incessantly and in the past 10 years or so we've done probably $30 million worth of storm water mainly storm water quality projects. so that type of funding has iedefinitely been a tool that
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is needed for our communities . like we said we use it extensively and maybe so much so that we have kind of tapped out our resources in that area but that is a big tool to expand for mitigation and some of the other disasters and things that you've mentioned like rising high waters or shoreline erosion . there are plenty of mitigation activities that would benefit from this type of funding and it's always good to get another tool in the toolbox. this is another tool for communities. i would say it's not going to replace the idea of grants since there is a payback associated with the loan. so some communities may be limited and here in ann arbor we had a storm water utility so we have a budget to do
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stufflike this . some communities don't necessarily have that but still, they have like one particular project that they can otherwise do it's a great tool . so it's definitely something that i'm sure committees are grateful congress is doing. >> thank you mister hancock. in your opening statement you offered a very compelling story of the impact on families so that these natural disasters can have. unfortunately all wide range of research has shown that fema assistance despite the best of intentions from our folks at fema , often they fema system can actually disaster exacerbate racial and economic inequalities after a disaster. marginalized communities as you mentioned are often exposed to damage and have er
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less access to resources in order to recover and a trend that's only going to continue is climate change continues to create more frequent and more destructive disasters. so my question is straightforward. what more can fema do to promote equity within its programs and ensure that those who are hit hardest by these disasters and are generally folks who are economically disadvantaged and in communities of color? they need to have the opportunity to recover. what more should fema do. >> as i said in our opening statements , it's not one agency. it's a collaboration of agencies altogether. when you look at footprints like louisiana and you look at the multiple parishes that were impacted and you look at the neighborhoods that are geographically isolated in some cases a bit like a ports sulfur all the way down in whiteman's parish. oc homes maybe 15 homes and another 15 miles industrial and thenanother 10 homes .
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so finding all of those locations and making sure we're connected is a job of all of the recovery agencies that show up there and one of the ways we can do that is through h sharing information and collaboration so that when we talk to clients, one of the things we make sure we do is make sure they are connected with fema and that they are registered. it's one of the first conversations we have with our red cross clients so making sure that we are showing each one of our community members what they need to do and how they can connect with all the other resources including fema is a critical part of it. it's these disasters are large and in scale very complex and different communities will choose to present or not to present for a wide variety ofreasons . that's why it's important to have a variety of partners there on the ground so those communities feel trusted and welcome to comeforward and apply for assistance . >> thank you. fema is the lead agency for nc federal emergency response but as you mentioned we need
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other agencies and nonprofits to come together. my question though is to chief butler. specifically when it comes to first responders, what more would you like to see congress to support first responders who are need to be there first on the scene to help communities when confronted with a disaster. >> thank you sir. that's agood question . i think we appreciate that we already are focused in the form of our grants and continuing those grant opportunities, afge, safer, the other grants particularly funding and continuing to fund the use source system is very important to us because it's a frontline who is responding to these disasters
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at times. so to some extent i will say the continuation of the support and funding and an increase in those dollar amounts will go a long way. >> thank you chief butler. ranking member portland you are recognized for your questions. >> thank you mister chairman and thank youwitnesses for your testimony . more importantly for what you do every day. chief butler we just talked about search and rescue. back in 2016 you may recall we passed legislation that was worked on in this committee called the national urban search and rescue response systems act and it enhanced compensation and protectionsfor urban search and rescue teams and required payment of finance to replace equipment used by those teams . how does that work? can you give us a sense of whether the legislation was helpful or not and what more could be done to improve that
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legislation? you mentioned the resource system continues. can you give us a sense of where you are with regard to district isolation and what else could be done ? >> thank you. we ask that congress appropriate $50 million for the system in fy 2022. this funding would lallow our teams to replace current transportation asset like you've mentioned which are nearing the end of their lives and increased funding would allow us to be able to conduct three or four full-scale exercises each year and provide training along withour operational readiness . i'll stop there and answer the genesis of your question, how it worked so far. it has worked well up until this point but as we talked about this morning the
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increasing demand and increase in weather extremes and other needs to deploy teams requires that we keep up with the pace and funding and infrastructure so the teams would be able to improve their capabilities for responding to subterranean incidents like tunnel classes as somewhat of an emerging threat and also the teams would be able to validate the use of new technology as a man aerial iksystems or robots. so the ift is increasing the funds for the systems to adequately catalog federal and state and tribal and territoriallocal search teams . >> thank you, i appreciate it. we just celebrated our team locally for the good work they did down at the most recent hurricanes but we also had kind of a commemoration of their 20 year anniversary
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of 9/11 to allow task force one inside the area took off immediately. my wife saw them on the highway heading towards new york. she saw them in pennsylvania lights flashing that morning and it's a great system. i'm a huge supporter. it's a classic example of state and local there's so much training and expertise that fema gets that essentially for free. because you have these firefighters and others, doctors, people with trained dogs and so on and they do a lot of this just asvolunteers . and provide so much vihelp and resources on a national level so the search and rescue teams and everyone in our state responds with mutual aid . i'm a huge supporter and i think it's likely an investment that really pays off. so thanks for what you said today and we will follow up with you on your comments you miss merrick.
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thanks for what you do in ohio again. one thing you talk about your testimony was interesting was this safe room rebate program to prevent ohioans from needing assistance from an urban arts and rescue team as an example can you talk about other ways families can better preparein order to avoid situations that will require rescue ? >> thank you senator. our rebate program in ohio has been phenomenal. we have over 450 safe rooms that have been included for residential platforms that we do to ensure that people build a safe room or they have an inground safe room that they're correlating with their first responders. to let them know like the codes, the geocoding in the event to agree with on top of that that storm shelter so
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they would know to clear that place first. but otherwise that's pretty much response that we have to do. some of the other ways i think that families can better prepare to avoid these situations would be to make a plan for all deserts to include severe weather. they included communication plans. how do you let people know that you're okay. i know during recently during ida, they've gotten a phone call from a friend of mine who has family in louisiana i can't get a hold of them, i don't know if they're okay . . so it's an important, very important that you have communication and how you reconnect or where you will meet after an event . know how you'll receive information about those. have a active on your phone. to enable them for the wireless emergency alerts.
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obtain a weather radio and keep it in your house, work, places of worship and other locations that may have your phones on silent. probably the last thing i want to make sure of is if you have a safe room to indicate to your first responders and this is so important in the community . while first responders to include urban search and rescue an ohio task force one are trained for survivors. if you can facilitate their efforts, by letting them know that you had one they have a chance to save more people because they will just do a drive by your place to make sure that's not covered by debris and the book they'll be able to move on. >> thank you and i hope people are listening and will
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listen to you. research hasshown one dollar ofmitigation saves on average $60 on future disaster costs and we mentioned earlier the storm is in a bipartisan infrastructure bill before the house . but we also have something in there called the building resilience infrastructure and communities program or the brick program . there's $1 billion for that. how important is mitigation for preparedness miss merrick and how has impacted ohio. >> the first year of brick program ohio only received the set-aside amount. we like most of the country did not receive competitive funding due to some of the technical aspects of the program. assuming passage of a bipartisan infrastructure bill we will have projects with a competitive package that we put together for the first year of funding . we will need to see how those projects fit that in the future notice of funding opportunities that, from fema
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. but of course we do appreciate having this additional pot of money to be able to tap into. we have to figure out over the years the best way to be able to dothat . with some of those technical benchmarks that we need. >> my time is expired but we will follow up with you on specifics about how toimprove going forward . hopefully this will pass the house this week k and we will have the ability to allow other states to apply for these competitive grants and follow up with you on the bureaucracy of fema and how to reduce some of the costs and inefficiencies in some of the delays thatyou've experienced. thank k you always . >> thank you ranking member portman. we now recognize senator hassan for your questions and i also have to run over and vote so i will also pass s the gavel to you. >> thank you mister chair and ranking member portman for this hearing. and a special thank you to all of our witnesses for the
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important work that you do to prepare our communities for natural disasters and for coming before this committee today and i'll add my own appreciation that you've heard from the roranking member and chair for all the volunteers andfirst responders and disaster preparedness folks in our states and our communities . you do lifesaving, life stabilizing work and you help our communities be resilient in the face of just incredible difficulty so i want to thank you all for what you do i. i want to thank with the question to mister hancock. i'm chair of the subcommittee on emerging threats and suspending oversight so i'm particularly focused on ensuring the federal government bans taxpayer dollars efficiently and reduce waste fraud and abuse. in 2018 as senator peters mentioned in his opening fema sponsored report indicated that every dollar spent on federal mitigation grants six dollars in savings so o mister
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hancock, how can we improve the ability of states and localities to invest in mitigationbefore a disaster strikes . >> i think that is due to the federal government. partnering with states and the capacity of states to respond. states are more easy. there's it's easier for them to communities so with fema providing assistance to the states, to increase their particular floodplain management capacity and in other words staffing, they can in turn then work with the local communities. we think that is a efficient way to go about that. and an example, simon
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mentioned that ohio didn't get any of the competitive brick funding that it needed in michigan. only the senate side and that's an area where within brick there could be a program within brick that just simply funds state assistance to increase the capacity of state governments to assist the local communities. >> thank you. miss merick for a long time i heard from management professionals in my state about the need to reduce the complexity of many fema programs and possibilities. femaannounced an initiative
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to co-locate teams of field staffers with state and local partners to improve communication and at coordination between federal state and local partners . these teams known as fema integration teams were created to help state and local partners more easily navigate some of the fema's bureaucracy. emergency management officials in new hampshire have responded positively to the creation of a fit in my state in new hampshire so based on your perspective as president of the national emergency management association , have you found that fits have been helpful in bridging the gap between state local and federal partners west and mark . >> t. >> today we don't have a fit team. let me make sure i'm on muted. okay. in ohio we don't have a team member or an integrated team. threviews from other state directors that do have been very positive . recently i was at region five in chicago and my partner states the majority of them
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do one or two in their states that have been helpful in the he area in which they are hired in the preparedness and planning section to help navigate mitigation and working in some of the other programs. i don't have a tremendous amount on this but i do know that as my colleagues and i talked about it they have been pleased with the fits that they have on their team from fema. >> thank you for that and i look forward to learning about reactions from other states because it seems that might be an area we want to expand on. miss merick i have another question. federal disasterrecovery funds administered by fema allowed a small percentage of each grant to be used to cover management costs like grant processing or oversight . currently management costs afforded from one disaster can only be used for that particular
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disaster. miss merick, what are the benefits of changing fema's policy so it permits states and localities to use dollars provided for management costs across all open declared disasters ? >> thank you and thank you very much for asking that question . states can apply for a certain portion of disaster stcost to cover some of the administrative costs of the th event. currently those are limited to a specificdisaster as you indicated . this creates a disincentive to closeout disasters quickly as state naturally utilize as much of that funding as possible. management costs were agnostic, they would be able to focus more on the recovery effects so the administrative tracking hours per disaster. if we were allowed to roll over those management hours we could not only closeout disasters much faster but
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utilize those funds to build capacity in the long term for anything else we may face. i should note nemo was grateful to your staff for working with us last year and getting legislation drafted and hope we can get something introduced. >> i thank you for that and i look forward to continuing to work with you on that. i have one more question but i think it would take us over time while submitted for the record and i'm now going to recognize senator rosen who should be with us virtually. >> thank you, i appreciate that and i want to thank chairpeters for holding this hearing . it's really natural disasters have been occurring more frequently around the country and all around the world. so i want to talk about wildfires because across the country but particularly in the west that's wildfires continue to worsen every year.
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they brought it to our house and personal property, to wildlife and of course to our public lands . in 2020 wildfires burned more than 3 million acres in detroit, more than 17,000. and this year we seen over 45,000 wildfires burn nearly 6 million acres of land including double recently affecting nevada like the tamarac hauser fires. while the increase funding to mitigate our current wildfires and prevent further catastrophe and recently included senators in urban community shares to include these resources and our reconciliationpackets . now climate change has increased the severity of wildfires and other natural disasters. many say we no longer have a fire safety but fires having year-round now and we have to
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address that so miss merick can you talk about the challenges in emergency managers states and dealing with continuous and worsening natural disasters year after year with out any intervening period of relief. >> thank you very much. you know, as we move forward and we've learned a lot with the large response that our other tasks are preparedness or response and mitigation to natural disasters doesn't stop. and we continue to have to be prepared to work on multiple events. activate or have separate activation at the same time to make sure that we're preparing and coordinating and communicating not only with our locals who weren't locally disaster start, work
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and end at the local level. then they are when they take capacity we also have the ability of the federal government but we have to h also work with our federal partners to ensure that we know exactly how we execute those programs and what is on the table those days as we respond and we move forward and we know what programs we have to make sure we're executing faithfully. >> thank you. so my internet skip to be et there so i didn't meet the interruption. i'm going to move on to the same topic but to chief butler. because the current system disparity in pay between jobs and firefighters, both the chop shops are short of
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firefighting personnel. what is our nation's ability to respond to these natural disasters chief butler, how can escongress help with the recruitment and retention of fire prevention. >> that's a really good question and as a fire chief my entire community has met with structural fires and as such but my brothers and sisters in the wildland community are somewhat losing out in conversation when it comes to pay and salary. there are a lot of choices out there and a lot of opportunities for responders. >> i'm sorry, go ahead. >> so yes, picking up with the plight of firefighters is important that we know it on the structural side that the
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community is behind in pay in salary. >> were going to be able to pass some legislation that will create a permanent year-round position for wildland firefighters by adding at least 1000 more to the help the cost or the fight, not the cause. help the fight in this and pay them what they deserve to be paid. we really appreciate everything that they do out there to protect us and of course you can't find wildfires if you don't have water. so i'm going to move to talk about drought because 90 percent of the west is currently experiencing drought. the majority of areas are subject to significantly below average precipitation, and extended drought period and that's one of the reasons for having these wildfires but zero reclamation issued a water shortage for lake mead
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which provides water and generates electricity formore than 20 million people .the declaration means nevada loses seven percent of its allocation of water r and nevada governors just sent a letter to president biden requesting the declare a fema drought disaster in the west allowing states to access federal resources. so wildfire and unfortunately go hand-in-hand so miss merick can you discuss the benefits of fema assistance in responding to the drought and what actions should our communities take to prepare for some of the extreme drought as climate change begins to exacerbate conditions and increase flooding being one of them. >> you know, as we respond to any event center i think it's important that we be focused on our basics of response.
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we go back and look at our preparedness actions we continue to communicate with our locals. we refer to our action plan in which we need to ensure the response is being coordinated with the appropriate level of agency as whether that's federal or locally. and then talk about but mitigation that have already been designed. to move forward or for the predisaster mitigation measure, folks are starting to undertake and ensure that those are being put out there and that people understand that their happening and they can happen to those and how do they tap into those? i'm sorry, those programs in which they can receive guidance or perhapsprotection . >> thank you, i appreciate all of you for being here. course in the west extreme heat drought and wildfires are going to continue to plague us as well as other o disasters .
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we appreciate the work and effort that you all put into the southeast. thank you. >> thank you senator rosen. senatorjohnson, you're not available . i do have another question . for mister hancock. climate change is increasing the cost of disaster response and recovery. the national oceanic and atmospheric administration otherwise known as noah tells us that 20/20 sent numerous records. 22 extreme weather and climate events which each caused $1 billion or more in losses. recent disasters like the flooding that impacted new hampshire communities this summer├│the need for action to safeguard the nation's infrastructure, protect businesses and communities save taxpayer dollars. the bipartisan infrastructure package includes funding that i pushed for to help
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communities invest in postal resiliency measures. mister hunt hancock can you discuss the importance of investments to help prepare for and mitigate damage for more frequent flooding s?events and other disastersspurred by the change in climate . >> yes. so the amount of disasters like you said are increasing so much so that communities are a few other people have said just one disaster after another. so pass the capacity issue i think is having it comes back in this question that states or communities don't have the capacity to respond to one after another after another so this we could use assistance from the federal government to help us increase our capacity y during
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times that we aren't having disasters and this is what we talked about earlier, a lot of the funding for disaster response and recovery comes from disaster. well, it would be more helpful if we were tied to individual disasters and we just increased capacity unrelated to events. >> i also wanted to follow up on that because generally we have considered historic flow patterns when we look at planning fland investment and mitigation. how important is it for state and local governments as well as thefederal government to consider your flood risk in their infrastructure plans ? >> that is a great question. so just like you said, most
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flood maps and most of what we do is based on what happened in the past. and to use one example again, i work at a local community and response to proposals. when buildings are built, there built for decades. so to plan for a safe building based on what happened in the past may not necessarily make that sa building big in the future. you can apply that logic to any infrastructure whether it be a damn or a stormwater place but when we're building infrastructure we are really building those for the future so having future conditions shown where they have the ability to plan appropriately for their infrastructure and buildings of the future.
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>> thank you for that answer. i'm going to check with our crew if senator padilla is available. next up is ilsenator padilla. >> i want to follow up on senator rosen's testimony but specifically california where our most recent wildfire season was the worst on record. they experienced more than 10 10,000 fire incidents, 4.2 billion acres burned and 10,000 structures weredamaged or destroyed . california residents both north and south rely on local and regional fire departments to safely provide expedient mobilization and response to ever worsening fire seasons. however as chief butler mentioned in his testimony , the national fire association third of the survey departments did not
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have access to backup power. they are also suffering from old ventilation systems. other environmental problems and many do not have proper quarters for female fire and ems personnel . so a question for chief butler, is it possible to ask firefighters to fight ever worsening fires that do not have an adequate facility to work in. and just so the committee tell the committee what infrastructure recovery means for the more out of those personnel and the capabilities of those units. >> you hit it right on the head sir. with the word more out. it's circular more out. equal ormission success and mission success equals morale.
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health safety and wellness of the responders is and should be paramount. there are many accreditations that would be condemned in many other communities. the irony is those working in some of these doctors are going out to do inspection and look at the viability of some buildings and coming back to spaces that are minimal mental health is increasingly always should be and has been but there's a lot of spotlights ... carcinogen exposure reduction . firefighters and there's a whole thousand dollars that
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show that you're getting really paying attention to our personal protective gear, keeping up-to-date and being funded appropriately for the proper ppe and fire stations and apparatus that we're on. >> so i particularly appreciate you mentioning the aspect of mental health of firefighters and that clarifies behavioral health for the its members and the communities that they serve. so we state that you're welcome at this point about what else this committee to do to support infrastructure needs of fire and emergency services. but while i still have a few minutes i also want to raise the issue of the stafford act which highlights fema's disaster efforts and it's
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given short shrift in communities facing wildfires specifically to the unique nature of wildfires. many california communities have experienced difficulty after difficulty in the wake of recent catastrophic wildfires regarding reimbursement regarding debris removal. disaster assistance eligibility, specific to the individual assistance. home insurance and relocation assistance. so first to you chief, do you have any specific thoughts on how fema could be more inclusive of the needs of the fire and wildfire responses. >> yes senator, it starts with leadership and selection. we prepare for this by administrators who are very
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familiar. >> i was frozen there for a second . i'll stop there.on >> i appreciate that. we will follow up and adjust onthe same topic . my time remaining on the topic i'd ask a question to miss pipa as a leading disaster response do you have any ideas on how regulation should be updated to deal
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with the new reality of extreme weather and better support the risks and response to wildfires. >> thank you for thequestion senator . there's a couple ways that we can work together and i think making sure that. connected into the system and that not just our agency but other nonprofits and for-profits and really just entities are there helping to extend the reach into eachone of those communities . as we've seen with the wildfire season it has begun much earlier . it has gone longer and we have seen more ongoing destruction. so one of the things we look at is refreshing our workforce and making sure we have additional volunteers to come out and support and then at the same time making sure we're connecting with fema both at the state level and at the national level to make sure we're aligned and that we know that we are both covering the communities that
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need those impacted and need the assistance in order to begin their recovery process . >> thank you very much. thank you for following up with everybody. >> thank you senator senator allsop you are recognized . >> thank you mister chairman thank you to our panelists and the person and joining us remotely. miss pipa i'd like to discuss with you the issues of particular concern to my constituents in coastal georgia. just a few weeks ago i visited st. mary's in camden county georgia. and convened local leaders to discuss the communities readiness for intense tropical storms, storm surge events, coastal inundation. good news is that the bipartisan infrastructure bill which the senate passed last month includes more than $12 billion for coastal resilience programs. and improving drainage infrastructure, marshland remediation, the
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weatherization of public and private buildings and improvements to evacuation routes to assist coastal communities like those in georgia's golden isles. and while these investments will help to mitigate the effects of disasters , we also need to prepare public, prepared local officials and must and adoptable disaster response system. so i have to questions for you on the subject. the first is can you describe what the american red cross is doing with a focus on the coastal southeast and coastal georgia to adapt your organization and resource allocation for events like those in the second question is would you or a senior american red cross executive committee joining me for a roundtable with local officials and community leaders in coastal georgia to about nform the public steps they can take to prepare themselves and to coordinate a better cross jurisdictional preparedness prm


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