The Emergency Management Assistance Compact serves as a vital agreement to request resources in an effective and efficient way in an effort to save lives nationwide. It is an organized way for States to request personnel, service, equipment, and supplies during a State of Emergency. There is no cost to join the compact and its amendments cover liability, reimbursement, and compensation of the responders. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 initiated the conversation to create an interstate mutual aid agreement. At that point, only a few States were involved. The Stafford Act passed in 1994, helped with the initiative, followed by being signed into Public Law in 1996. All fifty States, the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam are now part of the compact. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact has been tested several times since its inception and remains to be tested every year. The largest implementation in history, at that time, occurred in 2004 with ten activations. The very next year, 2005, called for the largest demand for nationwide mobilization of emergency resources in the country’s history. Through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, mutual aid is agreed upon prior to the disaster. This occurs in the early phases of the Emergency Management cycle, allowing the focus during a disaster to be on response and recovery.
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) and It’s Value in Emergency Management
Former President Ronald Reagan once said “Our American tradition of neighbor helping neighbor has always been one our greatest strengths and most noble traditions.” In a time of need, neighbors look for neighbors to help; whether a small-town community, a big city, or the nation at large. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact, otherwise known as EMAC, is the “most widely adopted mutual aid arrangement in the United States” according to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (n.d.). Mutual aid arrangements of neighbors helping neighbors, or in this case the States helping States. The EMAC began as a regional arrangement among southeastern states in 1993 following Hurricane Andrew and has gained national status with the passage of public law in 1996 (EMAC, 2005). Since then, EMAC has been tested several times by events such as the Florida wildfires in 1998, the terrorist attacks in 2001, four major hurricanes impacting Florida within 48 days in 2004, Hurricane Katrina and Rita in 2005, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The EMAC has learned many valuable lessons since its inception, and continues to face challenges every year. Throughout these learning years, the mission has remained the same: provide an agreement to request resources efficiently and effectively in an effort of saving lives.
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The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) is an interstate mutual aid compact that provides legal structure for states affected by a catastrophe to request help from other states (Florida Disaster, 2002). It provides an organized way for states to request various types of aid from other states such as personnel, services, equipment, and supplies. The compact sets out the responsibilities of the states requesting aid, as well as the states sending aid. It also covers liability, licenses, certification, and reimbursement of responding resources. The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) (2013) calls EMAC “the cornerstone of the nation’s mutual aid system.”
The EMAC is not a government agency. It is a state-to-state, mutual-aid agreement administered by NEMA which is located in Lexington, Kentucky. It acts as a complement to the federal disaster response system, providing timely and cost-effective relief to states requesting assistance. EMAC can be used either in lieu of federal assistance or in conjunction with federal assistance. In scenarios that do not warrant federal assistance, EMAC can still be used. This helps provide a seamless flow of needed resources to an impacted state.
The U.S. Constitution (2010) generally excludes states from entering a compact with one another unless Congress consents. While EMAC is overall a young innovation in the grand scheme of things, its concepts stretch back decades to the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950. The Federal Civil Defense Act authorized the Federal Civil Defense Administrator to “assist and encourage the states to negotiate and enter into interstate civil defense compacts” and undertake other actions that would “permit furnishing of mutual aid for civil defense purposes in the event of an attack” (Congressional Research Service, 2008). After many years of minimal funding, substantial resistance, and limited public support, the Civil Defense Act remained in the U.S. Code but had very little application. After Hurricane Andrew devastated Florida in 1992, Congress incorporated many of the provisions of the Civil Defense Act into Title VI, “Emergency Preparedness,” of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act in 1994 (the Stafford Act) (Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, n.d.). Similar to the authority given in the Civil Defense Act, Title VI of the Stafford Act authorized the FEMA Administrator to “assist and encourage states to negotiate and enter into interstate emergency preparedness compacts.”
After Hurricane Andrew destroyed much of the infrastructure around Miami, Florida, many questions were raised about the capabilities of the government to manage the consequences of disasters. Florida’s Governor at the time, Governor Lawton Chiles, initiated conversations with other governors through the Southern Governors Association to develop a mutual aid agreement. From these conversations, the Southern Regional Emergency Management Compact (SREMAC) was adopted in 1993 as a result of agreement amongst 17 states, as well as, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Years later, in an effort to expand the interstate compact nationwide, the SREMAC agreed to revise the initial compact as EMAC. It gained National status with the passage of Public Law 104-321 in 1996. When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, all states except California and Hawaii were EMAC members (Congressional Research Service, 2008). Currently all fifty states, the District of Colombia, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam are parties in the EMAC Agreement.
EMAC is utilized when states are struck by disaster or when a disaster is deemed imminent. Once the Governor of the affected state(s) declares a state of emergency, EMAC is alerted and resources are requested. States sending help can respond to the requesting state within two hours, specifying the extent to which the requested assistance can be provided (Congressional Research Service, 2008). Some resources can be commonly found in all states, such as temporary shelters, mobile command vehicles, or law enforcement, while some specialized resources, such as Technical Rescue Teams, Donations Management Teams, or Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Teams are found in relatively fewer states. EMAC provides emergency managers a menu of specialized resources that may be called upon during a disaster.
A unique aspect of EMAC is that it does not require states to provide assistance when requested. A provision states that assisting states “may withhold resources to the extent necessary to provide reasonable protection for such state” (Virginia Acts of Assembly, 1995). It would be irresponsible for a neighboring state to send all their resources and drain their own system when they could be in danger as well. For example, a hurricane impacting Florida and moving up the East Coast has the potential to cause harm in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and so on depending on the forecast. This is where the beauty of the EMAC comes in, states from the Midwest can send resources in to help mitigate the disaster, as well as give the home state resources some time to take care of their own families.
The 2004 hurricane season brought four powerful hurricanes making landfall within a period of 48 days. This brought on the largest EMAC implementation in history at that time. More than 800 people from 38 states deployed to Florida, Alabama, and West Virginia as a result of the storms. This was only a modest representation of things to come. The very next year, 2005, created the largest demand for nationwide mobilization of emergency resources in the Country’s history. Throughout the year, EMAC was activated 10 times (1 wildfire, 1 flood, 1 tropical storm, 2 winter storms, and 5 hurricanes) (EMAC, 2005). The multiple requests cumulatively stressed and tested EMAC’s capabilities in ways it had not been tested before. These events generated a total of 2,241 mission requests, resulting in the deployment of 66,207 personnel and massive amounts of equipment. According to the 2005 Hurricane Season Response After-Action Report, the 2005 EMAC events was expected to exceed $840 million.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall August 25th, 2005 and was followed by Hurricane Rita on September 24th. Hurricane Katrina and Rita together generated 2,181 mission requests resulting in 65,929 personnel deployed from 48 states, the District of Colombia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita accounted for 97.3 percent of the missions and 99.6 percent of the personnel assigned during 2005. Year 2005 proved that EMAC works. It delivered valuable resources quickly and in unprecedented quantities to states engulfed in a catastrophic disaster. A-Teams were in place in Louisiana and Mississippi before Katrina even made landfall. Within 36 hours, 6,335 personnel were deployed to the states, and that number grew to 65,900 within 80 days. This deployment of resources made a clear statement that EMAC was both effective and scalable.
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There is no cost to join EMAC, however, states are required to adopt the compact’s language into their statutes essentially unchanged in order to receive the compact’s reimbursement, liability, and compensations. EMAC is triggered by a requesting state, once its governor has declared a state of emergency. This is followed by entering the request for assistance through the EMAC operating system. The state in need can ask EMAC leadership to send a team of emergency management personnel to the states emergency operations center (EOC) to assist with subsequent resource requests under EMAC (Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, n.d.). These advanced teams, known as A-Teams, function under the command and control of their home state leadership but are under operational control of the requesting state for the duration of their mission (EMAC, 2017, A team typing). The requesting state could also seek other various resources through the EMAC network from other states. These assisting states work with the state in need to identify resources needed along with other details. Once both the requesting and assisting states approve the final details, resources are deployed to the area of need.
Those providing aid under EMAC are considered agents of the requesting state for tort liability and immunity purposes. No employee from an assisting state can be held liable for an act or omission that occurs in good faith (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009). The Emergency Management Assistance Compact Fact Sheet states that “willful misconduct, gross negligence, or recklessness are excluded from EMAC immunity.” A person, licensed in a profession or skilled trade, from any state providing aid is considered to be licensed to perform those services in the state of need, subject to any limitations imposed by the requesting state. Because EMAC only applies to employees of a state, all responders must be employees of the state to receive immunity protections and license. Volunteers would have to be made temporary state government employees to be assured the coverage under EMAC.
Once the missions have been completed and resources have returned home, the assisting states will prepare a formal request for reimbursement sent to the state in need. Cost for resources are agreed on by both states prior to deployment. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will reimburse for services provided through mutual aid agreements, like EMAC. FEMA will reimburse mutual aid costs if the following conditions are met; if the aid was requested (no spontaneous responders), the assistance requested was directly related to a disaster eligible for FEMA assistance, and the assistance occurred under a signed, written mutual aid agreement (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2007). The compact guarantees reimbursement but does not prevent states that render aid from assuming some or all of the costs, or from loaning equipment or donating services (Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, n.d.). EMAC also requires that each state is accountable for the payment of compensation and death benefits for each of their own members in the same manner as if the injury or death occurred in the home state. All of these administration details are covered in the thirteen articles of the compact. The articles of the compact sets the foundation for sharing resources. It had been adopted by all 50 states, the District of Colombia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and has been ratified by Congress (PL-104-321) (FEMA, n.d.).
Requesting and deploying resources are all made at the discretion of the impacted state, allowing them the ability to pick what they need for what price. The assisting state only has to offer assistance if they have the resources and can deploy them. The EMAC process is a multi-step process, as outlined below. The EMAC authorized representative confirms declaration of emergency by the Governor. The state then assesses needs for resources and if they will need an external EMAC A-Team to assist with getting those resources. The state determines the best source for the needed resources, whether EMAC, federal or private sources. The EMAC A-Teams request resources by going directly to the state with the resources, often used for re-occurring missions, or by utilizing the EMAC Emergency Operations System (EOS) broadcast function. States can request the broadcast by FEMA region, two regions, three regions, an individual state, or an individual EMAC contact within the state. The A-Teams determine the cost and availability of resources, and the EMAC REQ-A form is filled out between the requesting and the assisting states. From this point, resources began to become mobilized and eventually checking in at state staging areas for deployment locations.
The EMAC Request for Assistance (REQ-A) Form is used to officially request assistance, offer assistance, and/or accept assistance. The use of the single form simplifies and streamlines the paperwork necessary to request and receive assistance from states. Once the REQ-A has been signed by both the requesting and assisting state, the REQ-A becomes a legally binding agreement between the requesting and assisting state under EMAC (EMAC, 2005).
The use of EMAC allows for the rapid increase of resources to an area that may be otherwise depleted. While states are overwhelmed and their resources are taxed, neighboring states can come in to help, bringing fresh and sometime unique resources to the disaster area. The agreement to provide mutual aid is agreed upon before the disaster, during the preparedness cycle in Emergency Management. This allows the focus during a disaster to be on response and recovery. Because all fifty states, the District of Colombia, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam are now parties in the EMAC Agreement, help will come from all directions with little hesitations. This allows the attention and energy of the emergency manager to be focused on response. Once the disaster has come through, the emergency management cycle switches from response, to recovery. During this time, recovery efforts can begin to be carried out by other resources, such as non-profits. The switch in resources involved can allow the rescue/response resources to regather themselves and prepare for the next emergency. It truly is a cycle where the emergency manager must constantly be shifting focus between mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery (Copeland, 2010). The EMAC helps speed up the process and helps better organize the cycle.
EMAC has a direct and significant impact on all states. The operation of this interstate, mutual aid compact allows states to efficiently exchange resources during times of need. EMAC shares vital response and recovery resources that protect property, minimize environmental damage, ensure basic human needs, and lessen the economic impacts of natural and man-made disasters on these states. The compact also covers reimbursement, liability, and compensation of the resources. The compact is essential in the Emergency Management cycle and helps improve the overall focus of the disaster response. The most widely adopted mutual aid agreement, the cornerstone of the national mutual aid system, can be summed up in one quote from Former President Ronald Reagan. “Our American tradition of neighbor helping neighbor has always been one our greatest strengths and most noble traditions.”
- Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. (n.d.). Emergency management assistance compact fact sheet. Retrieved from http://www.astho.org/Programs/Preparedness/Public-Health-Emergency-Law/Emergency-Authority-and-Immunity-Toolkit/Emergency-Management-Assistance-Compact-Fact-Sheet/
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009, September). Selected federal legal authorities pertinent to public health emergencies. Retrieved from http://www2.cdc.gov/phlp/docs/Selected%20Fed%20Legal%20Authorities%20re%20PH%20Emergencies%20102709%20v2.pdf
- Congressional Research Service. (2008, July 21). The emergency management assistance compact (EMAC): An overview. Retrieved from http://research.policyarchive.org/20206.pdf
- Copeland, J (2010, November). YouTube. Emergency management 101: The Four Phases of Emergency Management. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnsBdmhVsT4&feature=youtu.be
- EMAC. (2005). EMAC 2005 hurricane season AAR. Retrieved from https://emacweb.org/index.php/mutualaidresources/emac-library/after-action-reports/2005-emac-response-to-hurricane-katrina/131-emac-2005-hurricane-season-aar
- EMAC. (2017, November). A-team typing. Retrieved from http://www.emacweb.org
- Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2007, August 13). Mutual aid agreements for public assistance and fire management assistance. Retrieved from http://www.fema.gov/government/grant/pa/9523_6.shtm
- FEMA. (n.d.). Overview for national response framework. Retrieved from https://www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/nrf/EMACoverviewForNRF.pdf
- Florida Disaster. (2002, September). EMAC guidebook. Retrieved from https://www.floridadisaster.org/EMIT/Accreweb/Documents/Operations/Logistics/EMAC%20Guidebook%202002/intro2002.pdf
- NEMA. (2013, July 16). EMAC overview for city and county officials. Retrieved from http://www.emacweb.org
- U.S. Constitution. (2010, January 24). U.S. Constitution - Article 1 Section 10 - USConstitution.net. Retrieved from https://www.usconstitution.net/xconst_A1Sec10.html
- Virginia Acts of Assembly. (1995, March 16). Emergency management assistance compact. Retrieved from https://trackbill.com/bill/virginia-senate-bill-1121-emergency-management-assistance-compact/504179/
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