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Emergency Management Assistance Compact 101: Origins

Emergency Management Assistance Compact 101: Origins

The Emergency Management Assistance Compact, better known as EMAC, is an agreement among states and territories to provide assistance across state lines in the event of a disaster or other governor declared emergency. In the simplest of terms, it is a mutual aid agreement between states.

In an attempt to correct misconceptions about what EMAC is and what it is not, in its 2014 historical publication, Emergency Management Assistance Compact: A History and Analysis of the Evolution of National Mutual Aid Policy and Operations, the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) explains, "[a]dministered by the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), EMAC is not a government agency or program, but an agreement among states and territories to provide assistance across state lines when a disaster occurs."

"Administered by the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), EMAC is not a government agency or program, but an agreement among states and territories to provide assistance across state lines when a disaster occurs."
NEMA

The need for a state to state mutual aid system hit home in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo, which made landfall in South Carolina in 1988. With over 30,000 homes destroyed, more than a million residents without electricity for weeks-on-end, and an immature federal emergency management system ill prepared to intervene, South Carolina's Governor was struggling to provide the resources needed by his responders and residents.

And when the Governor of Florida, Lawton Chiles, attempted to help him by sending the Florida National Guard, he was prohibited by law from deploying his Guard across state lines.

Despite the recognized need for a state-to-state mutual aid system, neither Hurricane Hugo or the 1989 Loma Prieta, California (San Francisco) drove the issue to the action agenda. Then, in 1992, Hurricane Andrew slammed into South Florida causing catastrophic damage and immense human suffering.

As with Hugo, the federal response was anemic, at best. Out of frustration, Dade County Emergency Manager, Kate Hale famously said, Where in the hell is the calvary on this one? They keep saying we're going to get supplies. For God's sake, where are they?"

"Where in the hell is the calvary on this one? They keep saying we're going to get supplies. For God's sake, where are they?"
Dade County, Florida Emergency Manager, Kate Hale

By most accounts, the bulk of federal resources did not arrive for six days.

Maybe too much was expected of a very young Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that was not viewed as a priority for the administration seated in the White House. After all, it had only been four years since the Stafford Act was passed, and six-months since the first ever Federal Response Plan (FRP) was published.

Given the track record for federal response, in September of 1992, at the urging of then Florida Governor, Lawton Chiles, the Southern Governors' Association (SGA) passed a resolution to develop a state-to-state mutual aid system for its members. The system would become known as the Southern Region Emergency Management Assistance Compact (SREMAC). The resolution stated, "[t]he Southern Governors’ Association in conjunction with the emergency management divisions of the member states will develop a cooperative agreement which sets forth an executive plan and inventory that will outline the operations, resources and activities that can be coordinated and activated when a disaster situation befalls one or more of the member states."

Three years later, in 1995, the SGA voted to open SREMAC membership to all states and territories and renamed it EMAC. And in 1997 NEMA assumed administration of the compact and sought limited federal grant support for the system.

According to NEMA, as of today, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are members of EMAC.

Stay tuned for Emergency Management Assistant Compact 201: How EMAC Works. To keep up with the latest release of new articles, infoGraphics, and preparedness resources on bParati.com you can follow me on LinkedIn and subscribing to bParati eNews on bParati.com. Everything we do is free for the whole community.


Authors Note

NEMA Logo All quotes, dates and events were derived from NEMA's historical publication, Emergency Management Assistance Compact: A History and Analysis of the Evolution of National Mutual Aid Policy and Operations. If you like details, it is nicely done resource and a good read.

 

Karl Schmitt, MPA

Karl Schmitt, MPA


Karl is the Passionate Founder & CEO of bParati. He is on a mission to build a national network of effective, sustainable healthcare coalitions. More...

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