Supporting Nationwide Disasters is Win-Win for Arizona

Supporting Nationwide Disasters is Win-Win for Arizona

Home destroyed in Mantoloking, New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 (ADEM photo by: Dennis Erickson)

What do the states Colorado, New Jersey, Connecticut and Oklahoma have in common?  The Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM) has lent staff to each in support of disaster response and recovery operations through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).


Arizona is a signatory to EMAC, a national mutual-aid system that helps affected states and territories obtain skilled personnel and critical services from one another during and after governor-declared disasters.  All 50 states, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Island, participate in EMAC.  Arizona’s involvement in EMAC was codified in state statute in July 2000.  Since 2006, ADEM personnel have left on 19 EMAC missions to 15 states, including Minnesota, Tennessee, Montana and Florida. 


EMAC establishes a firm legal foundation for deploying resources.  Once the conditions for providing assistance have been set, the terms constitute a legally binding agreement.   The EMAC legislation solves the problems of liability and allows for credentials, licenses and certifications to be honored across state lines.


When a disaster strikes, the resources in the impacted state may be overwhelmed or unable to respond.  EMAC uses an organized method to receive and process resources from EMAC partners, enabling assistance to get where it is needed. 


Dan Porth, Human Services Branch Manager in the ADEM Recovery Section, deployed to the New Jersey State Emergency Operations Center in Trenton for two weeks during Hurricane Sandy.  He worked as a deputy to the State Mass Care Coordinator and dealt with shelter management, including feeding operations, shelter closings, consolidating shelter population and the impact of animal sheltering on human shelter operations.


EMAC operations are a win-win for the states involved.  While the receiving state is benefiting from the skilled resources, those who deploy return with increased knowledge.   “The experience provided a real world learning ‘laboratory,’ and the lessons learned proved valuable to bring back to Arizona,” said Porth. 


During activations of the Arizona State Emergency Operations Center, Dan works Mass Care Branch operations.  “Daily conference calls with Mass Care partners is a best practice we have added to our procedures in Arizona.”


The length of EMAC deployments can vary based on the need of the requesting state. Dennis Erickson, Project Specialist with ADEM, deployed to Boulder, Colo., for nearly five months to assist with recovery operations following major flooding in several counties. 


While deployed Erickson represented the Colorado State Office of Emergency Management and served as a liaison between FEMA and local applicants.  He supported the implementation of the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 Pilot, a complex, new program that examined ways to expedite the recovery process and increase the flexibility in administering public assistance.


Colorado was Erickson’s eighth EMAC deployment.  He says he has learned something from each assignment.  “While it is important that the Public Assistance Program be followed, it must be flexible enough to work with disaster specific issues; each disaster brings new twists and turns, ‘” Erickson added.


Arizona has been on the receiving end of EMAC assistance. The 2010 winter storms caused many communities in northern Arizona to become isolated. Arizona requested aviation assets to support cargo delivery, passenger transport and aerial reconnaissance.  Three helicopters and flight crews from the Nevada National Guard supported the mission request.