“The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), established in 1996, has been tried and tested. It stands today as the cornerstone of mutual aid, allowing for a more advanced partnership amongst states. Its necessity is justified by the simple fact that, no matter the physical location, all states share a common enemy: the threat of disaster.”
What is EMAC?
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), established in 1996, has been tried and tested. It stands today as the cornerstone of mutual aid, allowing for more advanced partnership amongst states. Its necessity is justified by the simple fact that, no matter the geographical location, all states share a common enemy: the threat of disaster.
EMAC is the first national disaster–relief compact since the Civil Defense and Disaster Compact of 1950 to be ratified by Congress. Since its ratification and signing into law in 1996 (Public Law 104-321), 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have enacted legislation to become EMAC members.
The strength of EMAC and the quality that distinguishes it from other plans and compacts lie in its governance structure and its relationship with federal organizations, states, counties, territories, and regions; and the ability to move just about any resource one state has to assist another state, including medical resources.
EMAC offers the following benefits:
- EMAC assistance may be more readily available than other resources.
- EMAC allows for a quick response to disasters using the unique human resources and expertise possessed by member states.
- EMAC offers state-to-state assistance during governor-declared states of emergency.
- EMAC offers a responsive and straightforward system for states to send personnel and equipment to help disaster relief efforts in other states. When resources are overwhelmed, EMAC helps to fill the shortfalls.
- EMAC establishes a firm legal foundation: Once the conditions for providing assistance to a requesting state have been set, the terms constitute a legally binding contractual agreement that makes affected states responsible for reimbursement. Responding states can rest assured that sending aid will not be a financial or legal burden, and personnel sent are protected under workers compensation and liability provisions. The EMAC legislation solves the problems of liability and responsibilities of cost and allows for credentials to be honored across state lines.
- EMAC provides fast and flexible assistance: EMAC allows states to ask for whatever assistance they need for any type of emergency, from earthquakes to acts of terrorism. EMAC’s simple procedures help states dispense with bureaucratic wrangling.
- EMAC can move resources such as medical provisions that other compacts can’t.
How Does EMAC Work?
Generally speaking, EMAC works because the members of the Compact are passionate about helping one another during times of disaster.
EMAC is administered by NEMA, the National Emergency Management Association, which provides the day-to-day support and technical backbone for EMAC education and operations. During times of an emergency, NEMA staff works with EMAC member states to ensure that a smooth relay of information passes through the EMAC system to coordinate relief efforts.
In the simplest of terms, EMAC works as follows:
There are eight key players in EMAC operations:
Requesting State: any EMAC member state that is asking for interstate assistance under the Compact. The governor of the requesting state must declare a state of emergency before the EMAC process can be initiated.
Assisting State: any EMAC member state responding to a request for assistance from and providing resources to another EMAC member state through the Compact.
Authorized Representative (AR): the person within a member state empowered to obligate state resources (provide assistance) and expend state funds (request assistance) under EMAC. In a requesting state, the AR is the person who can legally initiate a request for assistance under EMAC. In an assisting state, the AR is the person who can legally approve the response to a request for assistance. State Emergency Management Directors are automatically ARs. The director may delegate this authority to other emergency management officials within the organization, as long as they possess the same obligating authority as the director.
Designated Contact (DC): a person within a member state who is very familiar with the EMAC process. The DC serves as the point of contact for EMAC in his or her state and can discuss the details of a request for assistance. This person is not usually legally empowered to initiate an EMAC request or authorize EMAC assistance without direction from the AR. A list of DCs is found in Section V, Appendix E of the EMAC Operations Manual.
EMAC National Coordination Group (NCG): the nationwide EMAC point of contact during normal day-to-day, nonevent periods. The NCG is prepared to activate EMAC on short notice by coordinating with the ARs and DCs of the EMAC member states when an emergency or disaster is anticipated or occurs. The NCG is collocated with the current chair of the EMAC Operations Subcommittee and Executive Task Force. Because the chair of the EMAC Operations Subcommittee changes every year, the NCG changes every year as well.
EMAC National Coordinating Team (NCT): If DHS/FEMA activates the National Response Coordination Center to coordinate the federal response and recovery operations during an emergency or disaster, DHS/FEMA may request a coordination element from EMAC. The EMAC NCT is the EMAC team that is deployed to serve as a liaison at the NRCC, located in Washington, D.C. From the NRCC, the EMAC NCT coordinates with the deployed EMAC components responding to the emergency or disaster and is the liaison between the EMAC assistance efforts and the federally provided assistance efforts. The costs for deploying and maintaining an EMAC NCT at the NEOC are reimbursed by DHS/FEMA through NEMA/CSG.
EMAC Regional Coordinating Team (RCT): If DHS/FEMA activates a Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC) to coordinate the regional response and recovery operations during an emergency or disaster, DHS/FEMA may request a coordination element from EMAC. The EMAC RCT is the EMAC team that is deployed to serve as a liaison at the RRCC. From the RRCC, the EMAC RCT coordinates with deployed EMAC components responding to the emergency in states within the region and is the liaison between the EMAC assistance efforts and the federally provided assistance efforts. The costs for deploying and maintaining an EMAC NCT at the NEOC are reimbursed by DHS/FEMA through NEMA/CSG.
All Member States (one being Virginia) have the following responsibilities…
- To be familiar with possible joint member situations
- To be familiar with other states’ emergency plans
- To develop an emergency plan and procedures for managing and provisioning assistance
- To assist in warnings
- To protect and ensure uninterrupted delivery of services, medicine, water, food, energy and fuel, search and rescue, and critical lifeline equipment, services, and resources
- To inventory and set procedures for interstate loan and delivery of human and material resources, including procedures for reimbursement or forgiveness
- To provide for the temporary suspension of any statutes or ordinances that restrict implementation
EMAC can be used for any capability one member state has that can be shared with another member state. As long as there is a governor-declared state of emergency, EMAC can be called to action and used.
EMAC Frequently Asked Questions
Which states are members of EMAC?
Since EMAC was approved by Congress in 1996 as Public Law 104-321, 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the District of Columbia have ratified the Compact. The only requirement for joining is for a state’s legislature to ratify the language of the Compact. States are not required to assist other states unless they are able.
What types of emergencies can use EMAC?
EMAC has been used in a wide variety of instances. In fact, EMAC can be used for any capability that one member state has that can be shared with another. This spans disasters from hurricanes to tornados to terrorist events and comprises resources from medical personnel to logistical resources to debris clearance providers.
Why should my state participate in EMAC?
Although states are capable of managing most emergencies, there are times when disasters exceed the state and local resources and therefore require outside assistance. Usually, this assistance comes from federal agencies. However, not all disasters are eligible for federal disaster assistance. EMAC is the cornerstone of mutual aid: while other compacts may claim to do things, EMAC actually does them.
EMAC provides another way for states to receive interstate aid in a disaster. Even when federal assistance is merited, EMAC assistance may be more readily available or less expensive. EMAC assistance may supplement federal assistance when the latter is available, or it may replace federal assistance when the latter is unavailable. Most important, EMAC allows for a quick response to disasters using the unique resources and expertise possessed by member states.
How does my state join or participate in EMAC?
To join the Compact, states are required to pass legislation approving the Compact as written. This ensures that states that receive assistance under the terms of EMAC are legally responsible for reimbursing assisting states and liable for out-of-state personnel. This significantly reduces the confusion and anxiety sometimes associated with interstate mutual aid.
Will membership in EMAC cost my state anything?
There are no membership fees or annual dues to be part of EMAC. If they wish, member states can voluntarily contribute funds to the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), which provides administrative support for EMAC initiatives. However, there is no requirement to do so.
Will my state be reimbursed for assistance?
By agreeing to a standard legal process, member states are guaranteed reimbursement for all eligible assistance provided through EMAC.
Under the Compact, it is the responsibility of states requesting assistance to pay back the states that provide it. This legal standard also helps to speed the process and reduce the paperwork required. Member states can be confident that they will be reimbursed.
Will my state be liable for assistance?
Under the terms of EMAC, requesting states are responsible for the actions of workers from assisting states. In State of Nevada v. John M. Hall (1979), the Supreme Court ruled that states are not immune from being sued in the courts of another state. This means that without EMAC, emergency workers from assisting states might be sued in the courts of requesting states, costing states millions of dollars. Under EMAC, however, requesting states assume tort responsibility for out-of-state workers.
Why EMAC instead of other compacts?
Unlike other interstate emergency aid compacts, EMAC is a legal agreement which offers clear implementation and ratification procedures.
First, EMAC has been approved by Congress, as required by the Constitution. Besides the outdated Civil Defense Compact and the narrowly focused Southern Interstate Nuclear Compact, no other such compact has been so approved.
Second, EMAC establishes an implementation plan, which means member states all agree to standard operating procedures for requesting and providing assistance, unlike other compacts.
Third, EMAC requires that the legislatures of each member state ratify the compact language, which eliminates confusion over who is a member of the Compact and provides a legal framework to facilitate assistance and reimbursement.
Who endorses EMAC?
EMAC continues to gain wide acceptance, with key endorsements for the Compact including:
- Southern Governors’ Association
- Midwestern Governors’ Conference
- Western Governors Association
- Adjutants General Association of the United States
- Midwestern Legislative Conference
- National Governors Association
- New England Governors’ Conference
- National Guard Bureau
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Does FEMA endorse EMAC?
Testifying before Congress on EMAC in 1996, then FEMA General Counsel John Carey said, “FEMA strongly encourages the development of mutual aid agreements such as the one being considered before the subcommittee today [i.e. EMAC]. Mutual aid agreements among jurisdictions serve to support the self-reliance and interdependence of those jurisdictions.”
Will EMAC aid reduce federal disaster assistance?
FEMA has assured states that accepting interstate aid will not reduce federal disaster assistance. In a letter to NEMA dated February 1996, FEMA Director James Lee Witt wrote:
[FEMA] has no intention of creating barriers to discourage mutual aid agreements in the states. NEMA should rest assured that mutual aid agreements, whether formal compacts or informal arrangements between states, will have no impact on the consideration of requests for presidential disaster declarations. In making an assessment of whether or not state and local capabilities have been exceeded, the review by FEMA will be made of the requesting state’s capabilities. The requesting state’s ability to secure resources from other states will not be a factor in the review of disaster declaration requests. FEMA will not calculate the capabilities of other states in our reviews.
Can EMAC be used for medical resources?
The Compact has routinely been used to move medical personnel to states in need.
For questions about EMAC as it relates to Virginia, please contact the Logistics Chief & Mutual Aid Coordinator