This winter has been an especially active one in the Northeast. While I am accustomed to significant snowfalls being from upstate New York, Region II has been busy responding to this year’s major winter storms with our federal, state, and local partners throughout the region. I would like to share one particularly valuable element of FEMA’s support of first responders, the Incident Management Assistance Team, or IMAT.
IMATs are made up of dedicated and experienced senior-level emergency management professionals that are able to deploy upon a moment’s notice when requested by the state. IMATs are generally consist of 10 members, with expertise in operations, logistics, planning, and recovery. They are a rapidly deployable asset to anywhere in the region or the country, supporting our states and territories in their emergency response efforts.
IMATs provide a forward federal presence to facilitate the management of the national response to catastrophic incidents. The primary mission of an IMAT is three-fold:
- rapidly deploy to an incident or potentially threatened venue,
- identify ways federal assistance could be used to best support the response and recovery efforts, should it become available, and
- work with partners across jurisdictions to support the affected State or territory.
One of the most important aspects of the IMAT’s role is to support and take their direction from the state. As our mission states, FEMA’s role is to “support citizens and first responders”. After a disaster, state and local emergency responders, along with voluntary agencies and faith-based groups, are called on to meet the immediate needs of the affected community, and IMATs are FEMA’s team of experts that stand ready to support if they are called upon.
Just last week, I visited the Region II IMAT who spent the week at New Jersey’s Regional Intelligence Operations Center, training with the region II Defense Coordinating Element. This opportunity allowed the team to sit in the actual space that New Jersey would provide them during a real incident and the team was tasked with making that empty room into a fully operational office. Even though it was an exercise, it is impressive to see the team in action as they support our states and territories.
Within hours the IMAT and the Defense Coordinating Element were working together to support the state and had access to key communications channels and capabilities, such as video-teleconferencing. As part of the exercise, the participants also discussed operational planning to continue to improve procedures during an actual IMAT deployment.
As we continue to strengthen relationships with other members of the emergency management team, IMAT’s are a critical part of making sure all members are collaborating with one another, providing the most coordinated response effort possible.