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Security officials testify about extreme weather preparedness

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Albany/HV: Security officials testify about extreme weather preparedness
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Department of Homeland Security officials testified Wednesday about the importance of being prepared for severe weather. Washington reporter Geoff Bennett filed reports.

With much of the East Coast dealing with yet another winter storm wallop, in Washington, a Senate committee focused on how to better prepare the country for extreme weather events.

“Events like Superstorm Sandy, which came to our shores in the Mid-Atlantic a year or so ago. We’ve seen recent wildfires in other parts of the country, dangerous tornadoes, historic droughts. It may well be just the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come,” said Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat who represents Delaware.

The senator said 2012’s Sandy cost the U.S. economy $75 billion in financial damages, losses that could have been prevented.

“A little extra planning combined with prudent targeted investments can go a long way in saving both lives and taxpayer dollars,” said Carper.

The Homeland Security officials who testified Wednesday said extreme weather also poses a direct threat to national security.

“Two years ago, high temperatures and high demand tripped a transformers in a transmission line in Yuma, Arizona, starting a chain of events that shut down the San Onofre nuclear power plant,” said Caitlin Durkovich, Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

That shutdown led to a blackout that left millions without power in Southern California and Mexico.

Wednesday’s hearing didn’t address the causes of extreme weather experienced across the country, but rather the cost of not being ready for it.

According to a major risk insurer, extreme weather has cost the U.S. over $1 trillion over the past 30 years since many communities haven’t been prepared to handle it.

“Over the past several years, we have made a significant shift in our thinking and in our practice of preparing for, mitigating against and responding to disasters. I can summarize that in one word: resilience,” said David F. Heyman, Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

That means anticipating bad weather and quickly recovering once it hits.
The Homeland Security officials said states and cities need to build infrastructure protection that can withstand natural disasters, hold more drills and practice exercises and even give incentives to local governments to improve their readiness.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Carper.

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