Washington, DC -- The city is in the throes of a disaster. Operations have gone to a 24-hour/7-day status and experienced emergency management professionals are sorely needed to help handle the extra workload. There is no time to hire and train additional staff; what is an emergency director to do?
There is a solution and the District of Columbia Emergency Management Agency (DCEMA) used it when faced with this dilemma in Hurricane Isabel's aftermath. DCEMA Director Peter LaPorte immediately called on the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), a mutual aid agreement and partnership that offers a quick and easy way for states to send personnel and equipment to help disaster relief efforts in other states and jurisdictions.
"We worked 15- and 16-hour days preparing for Hurricane Isabel," said LaPorte. "We have a small staff and by the time the storm hit, it was clear we would need additional help."
Emergency management staff from as far away as New Mexico, Mississippi and South Carolina came to assist the DCEMA in emergency center operations, public information and public assistance.
Tom McAllister, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency operations branch chief, was one of four EMAC members who came to Washington, D.C. This was McAllister's second EMAC deployment and he was happy to help out DCEMA in its time of need. McAllister also has been on the receiving side. Members of EMAC supplemented McAllister's agency in 1998 when Hurricane George hit Mississippi.
"EMAC allows personnel who are trained and schooled to come in and provide additional manpower during a disaster," said McAllister. "During a major disaster, no one state has the personnel to handle the volume of work both during and after the disaster."
Administered by the National Emergency Management Association, EMAC allows states to ask for whatever assistance they need for any emergency, from earthquakes to acts of terrorism. However, states are not forced to send any assistance unless they are able to do so. EMAC allows states to join forces and help one another whenever disaster threatens. Currently, 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia are members of EMAC. The District joined the compact last year.
"When looking at systems and processes to make DCEMA as responsive, effective and efficient as possible, I knew EMAC membership would be invaluable in helping us respond to disasters," said LaPorte.
DCEMA Communications Director Jo'Ellen Gray Countee is impressed with the experience of EMAC members. "My EMAC assistant was the communications director for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety and a former broadcaster, so he understood the news business and Joint Information Center (JIC) operations," says Countee. "He was very helpful."
EMAC resources do not affect a jurisdiction's federal assistance eligibility and supplement approved federal disaster aid when a presidential declaration is issued. The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) endorses the mutual aid agreement.
"EMAC leverages state, local and national assets in a disaster," said Scott Wells, federal coordinating officer for the District of Columbia. "It enables a collective, all response effort to the disaster and is a win-win situation for all involved in the disaster recovery process."
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive ...