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Schatz, Hirono, Padilla Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Improve Evacuation Route Planning In Hawai‘i, Across The Country

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) introduced bipartisan legislation to develop guidelines for state and local governments to improve emergency evacuation preparedness. The Emergency Vehicle and Community (EVAC) Planning Act would direct the Department of Transportation (DOT), in consultation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to develop and publicly disseminate guidance and best practices for states, territories, Tribes, and local governments to utilize when conducting transportation infrastructure planning.

In recent years, wildfires have become increasingly intense and destructive across the United States. Wildfires like the ones in Lahaina in 2023 and California’s Camp Fire in 2018 devastated communities. In both cases, limited evacuation routes became heavily clogged, preventing victims from escaping the flames more quickly.

“In an emergency, evacuation routes are absolutely critical to getting people to safety,” said Senator Schatz. “Our bill will give communities the support they need to develop roadways that will help save lives.”

“As natural disasters and extreme weather events—such as wildfires—become increasingly common in the U.S., it is crucial that our communities have effective, reliable emergency evacuation routes,” said Senator Hirono. “The Emergency Vehicle and Community Planning Act will help Hawai‘i, and states across the country, strengthen emergency preparedness efforts and develop infrastructure that prioritizes the safety of our communities.”

“The provision of guidelines to help communities implement emergency response protocols would not only help strengthen regional transportation planning efforts, but would also help bolster public safety in the event of a disaster. This exciting legislation also has great potential to improve long-term community economic recovery,” said Joe McKinney, Executive Director, National Association of Development Organizations.

“When disasters strike, county officials and emergency responders play a critical role in immediate and long-term efforts to help our communities respond and recover,” said National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase. “The bipartisan Emergency Vehicle and Community Planning Act would provide us with additional insights into developing and implementing evacuation routes to keep our residents safe before, during and after a disaster. We thank Senators Padilla, Cassidy, Schatz and Hirono for introducing this legislation and urge its swift passage.”

The EVAC Planning Act is endorsed by the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) and National Association of Counties (NACo).


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