H.R. 3820: Natural Hazards Risk Reduction Act of 2009

H.R. 3820

Natural Hazards Risk Reduction Act of 2009

March 2, 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

H.R. 3820 is expected to be considered under suspension of the rules on Tuesday, March 2, 2010.  The legislation was introduced by Rep. David Wu (D-OR) on October 15, 2009.  The bill was ordered to be reported by voice vote from the House Science and Technology Committee, as well as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. 

Bill Summary

H.R. 3820 would amend the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977 to revise and reauthorize the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program.  The bill repeals provisions establishing the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction as well as an associated advisory committee.  The bill revises the responsibilities of the program agencies and makes the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) responsible for research and development to improve building standards and practices; the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) responsible for facilitating the adoption of model building codes; the United States Geological Survey (USGS) responsible for providing real-time earthquake information; the National Science Foundation (NSF) responsible for funding basic research; and NIST responsible for organizing investigations under the post-earthquake investigations program.


The bill also amends the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act of 2004 to revise and reauthorize the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program.  The bill repeals provisions that require the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish an Interagency Working Group responsible for the planning, management, and coordination of the Program and designates NIST as the lead agency and sets forth revised responsibilities for other agencies. 


H.R. 3820 would establish an Interagency Coordinating Committee on Natural Hazards Risk Reduction, chaired by the Director of NIST, to oversee the planning and coordination of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program, and other federal research for natural hazard mitigation that the Committee considers appropriate.  The bill would require that the Committee develop strategic plans and coordinated budgets for programs, establish an Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction, an Advisory Committee on Windstorm Impact Reduction, and other advisory committees to mitigate the impact of natural disasters, as necessary.


The bill amends the National Construction Safety Team Act to authorize safety teams to be established for deployment after events causing the failure of infrastructure, as well as buildings, leading to a substantial loss of life.


H.R. 3820 would amend the National Institute of Standards and Technology Act to include among the types of fires subject to the Fire Research Center's research program fires at the wildland-urban interface.


The bill authorizes specific funding levels for each reauthorized program.


The following is background information on the affected programs under the bill from the Committee Report on H.R. 3820:

The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program

Since the creation of NEHRP in 1977, the program has contributed to the development of earthquake knowledge, seismic building codes, and increased awareness of the threat of earthquakes among public officials and the general public.  The NEHRP legislation directs four federal agencies--NIST, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-to coordinate efforts according to the agencies' expertise.  The NSF funds basic research to study earthquakes and earthquake engineering; NIST and FEMA support and facilitate the development and implementation of safer earthquake building practices; and the USGS, in addition to supporting research to improve the understanding of earthquakes, also provides critical seismic monitoring through the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) and the Global Seismographic Network (GSN).  In addition to its role in building research and development, NIST is also the lead agency for NEHRP, responsible for ensuring coordination, including a coordinated budget and strategic plan.

The National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP)

Congress created NWIRP in 2004, directing NIST, NSF, FEMA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop a coordinated R&D agenda to mitigate the impact of windstorms.  In 2006, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) identified a number of priorities to achieve the goals of the program, including research to improve knowledge about windstorms and the characteristics of wind, advancing wind-resilient design and construction methods for buildings and other structures, and spurring mitigation action among the public.  However, the program did not receive attention or funding.  Consequently, very little federal attention has been paid to R&D to increase the resiliency of the built environment to windstorms.

National Construction Safety Team Act

The National Construction Safety Team Act (NCSTA) (P.L. 107-231), signed into law on October 1, 2002, authorizes NIST to establish teams to investigate building failures.  The purpose of the Act is to improve the structural integrity of buildings and evacuation and emergency response procedures by investigating building failures and recommending specific improvements to building standards, codes, and practices, as well as evacuation and emergency response procedures.  The Act establishes NIST as the lead federal agency for building failures.

Wildfires at the Wildland-Urban Interface

Fires at the wildland-urban interface are a growing problem as more communities develop around forested land.  For instance, between 2003 and 2007, such fires destroyed over 8,000 structures in California. NIST is developing tools for reducing community losses in wildland-urban interface fires.


The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing H.R. 3820 would cost $747 million over the 2010-2014 period and $125 million after 2014.  Enacting H.R. 3820 would not affect direct spending or revenues.


H.R. 3820 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) and would impose no costs on State, local, or local governments.