The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) is a nationally ratified agreement dedicated to providing emergency assistance and disaster relief among states in times of emergency. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact works as a mutual aid system, pulling from the resources of all its member states to provide emergency assistance in the aftermath of an emergency or disaster, whether it be natural, accidental, or man-made.
Exactly what does EMAC do? The Compact manages emergency assistance by opening the way for states that need help to get it from the states that can provide it to them. Since no one state is likely to have every resource necessary to help in the wake of a disaster, being able to call on multiple states ensures that every need can be provided for.
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact was born after Hurricane Andrew ravaged South Florida in 1992. At that time, Florida Governor Lawton Chiles worked with the Southern Governors’ Association and 17 states to create the Southern Regional Emergency Management Assistance Compact. In 1995, membership in this organization was opened to any US State or territory that wanted to join. The new agreement-EMAC-became federal law when Congress ratified it in 1996, making a national disaster compact.
Members of EMAC now include all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact is not a federal agency, or part of the federal government; it is administered by the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), and is an agreement by all its members to provide assistance to other members in an emergency.
The National Emergency Management Association is the professional association for emergency management directors in the United States and its territories. It provides leadership and expertise, information and resources, and promotes improvement in emergency management through “strategic partnerships, innovative programs, and collaborative policy positions.” (NEMA)
EMAC works through a well-defined series of steps to provide the necessary assistance; this is what enables it to respond effectively and in a timely manner. Before EMAC can begin the process, the governor of the affected state must declare a state of emergency. This is a crucial step: unless and until the governor of the affected states does this, the Emergency Management Assistance Compact cannot act.
After a state of emergency has been declared, an authorized person (someone designated by the state’s emergency management agency who is authorized to spend state funds, and commit the state) from the affected state contacts EMAC, and requests assistance.
The needs of the state are assessed, and if it is determined to have real need, a call for help is issued through EMAC. The state offering assistance verifies the available resources it has to offer, and the cost of providing them; if the state in need chooses to accept the help, a requisition is made, and when both states sign off on it, the resources are sent. The process is completed when the state offering the emergency assistance requests and receives reimbursement from the affected state.
This disaster relief process is available for any service one state can offer another, as long as the governor has first declared a state of emergency.
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact system is efficient and able to do what other mutual aid agreements may not, for a variety of reasons: it offers assistance quickly, in part by helping the needy state cut through red tape; it provides whatever help is needed in whatever the situation; and it offers a structured system through which states can request and provide assistance to another state.
A deployment made by the Emergency Management Assistance Compact is a contractual arrangement, which ensures that legal issues are addressed, including liability and licensing concerns for workers sent across state lines, and payment between states.
In 2004 EMAC provided emergency assistance in the form of more than 800 people in response to Hurricanes Charley, Francis, Ivan, and Jeanne. The next year it proved itself again by providing resources in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, deploying more than 65,000 people to five affected states.
That deployment included more than 1,300 search-and-rescue personnel; more than 2,000 healthcare workers; more than 6,800 police officers and sheriff’s deputies; and 112 animal rescue personnel.
For more information on the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, visit www.emacweb.org.
Emergency Management Assistance Compact www.emacweb.org
National Emergency Management Assn www.nemaweb.org