Groups Meet to Discuss State Cooperation during Emergencies: NEMA Develops Emergency Management Assistance Compact Advisory Group to Help Improve Program

Article excerpt

Last week, representatives of a wide range of groups responding to emergencies met in Washington, D.C., to discuss ways to strengthen a 14-year-old program that helps states and local governments support each other in times of distress.

The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) program--authorized by Congress, administered by the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) and adopted by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico--establishes procedures for disaster-impacted states to request and receive assistance from other states quickly and efficiently.

Through the years, states have taken advantage of EMAC mutual aid agreements and partnerships between states to deal with hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods and toxic waste spills. It has been successful because of its active management, the protocols it has established, and the structures and framework it has provided.

However, its role has expanded and many more people have become involved in providing aid, which has led NEMA in establishing an advisory group representing first responders and local government officials, including NLC and other federal agencies, to help them meet new and expanding needs.

"Our nation's ability to respond effectively to a disaster--manmade or natural--depends on relationships, resources, understanding and access," said Connie Sprynczynatyk, executive director, North Dakota League of Cities and NLC representative to the new EMAC advisory group.

Advisory group members noted that many first responders and community leaders seeking to provide emergency assistance following Hurricane Katrina last year were unaware of the existence of EMAC and the tools it provided. NEMA acknowledged the lack of information and pledged to use the advisory group to encourage collaboration across different groups and help educate more local officials on what EMAC can and cannot do to help in emergencies.

"Local resources can't be shared effectively unless people across the country understand there are resources available like EMAC," noted Sprynczynatyk. "This state-to-state mutual aid compact is a great tool for sharing information and coordinating efforts, but it cannot work well unless local officials know what it is and how to plug into it. I applaud NEMA's efforts to establish EMAC and their interest in continuous improvement."

History of EMAC

EMAC was first formed in 1992 as a partnership of states designed to facilitate interstate disaster management. In 1996, Congress passed a joint resolution formally recognizing EMAC and solidifying the organization's constitutional protections. …