Bill prioritizes healthcare facilities for power restoration following a disaster

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Long-term care facilities and hospitals would be made a priority for power restoration after a major disaster or emergency, under a new bill introduced in the House this week.

H.R. 4460, dubbed the “Disaster Recovery Reform Act,” would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide education and guidance to state and local governments, utility companies and first responders on prioritizing healthcare facilities for power restoration.

Putting healthcare providers first in cases of natural disasters or severe weather events is crucial to ensuring the facilities “remain functioning or return to functioning as soon as practicable” during the outages, the bill reads. The legislation also would require education on how providers can prepare for power outages during major disasters.

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), the bill's author, said the proposal was spurred by the “tens of billions” of dollars spent on disasters in 2017. Among those are Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, which, among other destruction, led to the deaths of 14 nursing home residents after their facility lost power to its air conditioning system.

“Focusing on mitigation will help disaster-prone communities across the nation build better and build smarter,” Barletta said in a statement on Tuesday. “It's time to stop asking ‘What now?' right after a catastrophe, and focus on ‘what's next?' to prepare for future disasters.”