AZMAC - Neighbors Helping Neighbors

AZMAC - Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Damage from Schultz Flood; Heavy equipment being used post-flood (Photos by: ADEM staff)

PHOENIX -- Emergencies begin and end at a local level. Any person involved in emergency management and response understands this. However, sometimes emergencies stress local resources and outside assistance is needed. When this happens, the local jurisdiction will look to their mutual aid partners.


Mutual aid is a formal agreement between agencies, organizations or jurisdictions to lend assistance across jurisdictional boundaries.


After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, states and territories formed the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) which allowed states to assist each other during disasters. EMAC is a national mutual-aid system. States that have been affected by a disaster beyond their capacity to respond can request necessary personnel and services from one another during and after governor-declared disasters.


In 2008, the Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM) established the Arizona Mutual Aid Compact (AZMAC) which was signed by all the participating jurisdictions, including counties, cities, and tribes.  The AZMAC agreement allows for the structured movement of personnel and equipment, which expedites the delivery of equipment between jurisdictions and eliminates the need to buy equipment that a) someone else has and b) may be expensive to maintain.


During the summer of 2010, the Schultz Fire burned more than 15,000 acres north of Flagstaff in Coconino County. Less than a month later, a monsoonal storm dropped 2+ inches of rain in less than one hour over the burn area. The heavy rain resulted in flash flooding downstream from the Schultz Fire scar. Many neighborhoods were flooded, utilities were exposed, watersheds were impacted, and a major highway, U.S. 89, was closed due to water, debris, and resulting damage.


In the hours and days after the flood, Coconino County requested multiple resources in the form of heavy equipment and personnel, not only from ADEM, but from neighboring counties as well. Due to the AZMAC, Mohave County was able to easily provide resources to Coconino. Being neighbors, Coconino County received the assistance rapidly as well.  


Robert Rooney, ADEM’s Supply Branch Manager, says “Because of the agreement, the Arizona Mutual Aid Compact (AZMAC) allows agencies to ask each other for resource assistance during an emergency without having to worry about gaining approval before action. It allows for fire, police, medical and health, environmental, communication, and transportation services to help the affected county cope with the problems of response to an event."


As of September 2014, all 15 counties, 58 cities and towns, 8 tribal nations, and 30 other jurisdictions (including fire districts), have signed the compact.


Arizona is one of the few states that involve tribal nations in multi-agency mutual aid coordination.  “Arizona has worked hard to incorporate our tribal neighbors not only into our planning but response and recovery actions too, which includes mutual aid,” Rooney said.


Charles Kmet, Pinal County Emergency Management Director and former DEMA Tribal Liaison, believes involving the tribal nations in AZMAC is crucial. “Resources to assist in incidents and disasters are maximized when they come from nearby or neighboring jurisdictions,” he said. “Even with the tribes having the ‘government to government’ relationship with the federal government, their [federal]resources aren't available at a moment's notice like those of the county next door."


Coconino County Emergency Management Director Robert Rowley wasn’t around during the Schultz Fire, but he knows how important being a part of AZMAC is.  “The responsibility for getting what you need to effectively respond to an emergency or disaster is wholly owned by local jurisdictions,” he said.  “AZMAC does a very good job of establishing a process that is simple and eliminates any cost-related surprises when asking for help. With AZMAC you know who is ordering what, where it is coming from, and how much it is going to cost up front.”


Knowing where you can get assistance saves time. And when it comes to an emergency, time matters.