2015: A year in review

2015: A year in review

Scenes from DEMA events : Bakken oil hazardous materials workshop, State earthquake exercise, recovery/planning workshop, Wickenburg flooding, "Have their backs" campaign.

The disaster response and recovery expectations of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA) vary year to year and event to event. Although Arizona did not experience devastating wildfires or flooding in 2015, a neighboring state did, allowing DEMA personnel to deploy and assist in recovery. A Super Bowl ensured many planning meetings and shifts to work; meanwhile, a mine spill in Colorado prompted conversations about water quality in Arizona, and the promise of an active El Niño ensured the rest of 2015 passed quickly for DEMA.

The Exercise branch coordinates and plans exercises to assist communities in preparing for an emergency. Exercises are a safe environment where emergency managers, first responders, volunteer partners and stakeholders can develop, practice, validate and improve their response and recovery plans and procedures. In 2015, DEMA worked with state, federal and local partners to hold 24 drills, tabletop exercises, seminars, workshops and full scale exercises for more than 1,900 participants.

In November, DEMA hosted the first full scale statewide earthquake exercise with more than 300 participants from 75 different agencies and emergency response partners. groups.

The Radiological Preparedness Program (REP), which works in partnership with the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station (PVNGS), developed and conducted a long-term REP Program Recovery Workshop; the first of its kind in the United States. 85 representatives from state, local, tribal and federal agencies attended the event, which is now cited by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a best practice.

REP was also heavily involved in conducting the first federally-evaluated (by FEMA and United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission) Hostile Action Based (HAB) exercise at PVNGS. More than 350 representatives of local law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services, PVNGS and state representatives exercised their off-site response responsibilities in a hostile situation. The non-radiological based exercise provided new response and decision making challenges that are traditionally not a part of a plume exercise.

The Training branch provides training for internal and external personnel, coordinating state preparedness training and federal courses. Emergency management, homeland security and hazardous materials courses are available to first responders and emergency management personnel through the training office. In 2015, 5,700 individuals attended more than 265 different classes.

DEMA’s Infrastructure branch provides support to the state and local communities, not only when recovering from a declared disaster, but before a disaster strikes with outreach, training and more. After a disaster, damage identification and assessment support is provided to the jurisdiction in need.

Last year, Infrastructure continued the management of the September 2014 flooding event, reviewing 105 projects worth approximately $8.8 million in disaster assistance. $2 million in State assistance was provided after flooding in Cochise County. Five reservists were deployed to Colorado to assist in their flood recovery efforts. Seven other disasters are being managed, along with open Governor’s Emergency Council Mitigation projects.

DEMA’s Human Services group works with individuals and businesses to prepare for and recover from disasters. During a disaster, they work directly with impacted people to provide shelter, food and other support as needed. When there are no active disasters, Human Services coordinates develops partnership and response and recovery plans with local volunteer agencies and businesses.

Human Services closed 86 cases of Individual Assistance in support of the Yarnell Hill Recovery Group in the last year. DEMA combined the Private Sector Liaison and Voluntary Agency Liaison positions to create one point of contact for and encourage closer partnerships between businesses and volunteer agencies active in disaster.  

The Operations and Coordination section created the Field Operations branch to support stakeholders across Arizona. Three field coordinators located in Flagstaff, Phoenix and Tucson assist local and tribal partners in their regions with planning, grant management, training, exercise, mitigation, recovery and disaster response.

The Response branch works with state responders, as well as local and tribal emergency managers. Recently, they partnered with Pima County to establish an Alternate State Emergency Operations Centers (ASEOC) in southern Arizona. The facility will allow DEMA staff to work elsewhere during an emergency if the SECO at Papago Park Military Reservation cannot be used.

The Public Information Office (PIO) launched two public service campaigns in 2015. “Have Their Backs” and “It Doesn’t Take a Genius” were designed to educate Arizonans about the protecting life and property against wildfire, and explain how everyone is capable of preparing for emergencies, respectively.

The PIO continued to develop community partnerships by creating two American Sign Language preparedness videos (for a total of six) with the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Department of Public Safety to ensure the whole community understands the need to be prepared for disasters.


The PIO continues to provide preparedness and hazard information, along with real-time emergency updates on AzEIN, Twitter and Facebook