National Emergency Management Association

Just like the head and tail of a coin, there are two sides to every disaster—providing help to those who need it and paying for that assistance. It’s a tug-of-war that’s becoming more contentious every year. Federal law requires assistance in times of disasters, but as threats grow in complexity—possible infrastructure failures, vulnerabilities from electromagnetic pulses and unforeseen consequences from hydraulic fracturing to name a few—the burden of marshalling the necessary resources and funding is an ongoing struggle.

It’s not just cold air slamming against warm that creates disasters. Disasters come from a variety of threats: rising rivers and unprecedented snowfalls, cyberattacks and infectious diseases. There are also other kinds of risks, such as inadequate budgets and shifting political sands. Regardless of the cause, the consequences are predictable and can be tragic. Disasters hurt people and property. They tear lives apart. They can make political careers or bring them to a screeching halt. Disasters can change the course of history. While disasters can be difficult and present challenges to a neighborhood, community, state and a nation, their impact can be mitigated through strong and decisive action. Often, the only thing standing between the worst outcomes and manageable ones are citizens and public officials who refuse to be helpless pawns or victims, but instead prepare for the inevitable, conduct a thorough response and develop together a well-thought out recovery that acknowledges evolving threats without fear.

NEMA is very proud to release the first-ever report tracing the history of EMAC and its impact on national mutual aid policy and operations. A state-driven solution, EMAC stands as a tested and proven success story and an example of what determined individuals can accomplish when working together to make a difference for the nation.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the mid-Atlantic and East Coast in late October 2012, it not only killed more than 200 people and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage. It altered the way this country manages disasters. Congress passed the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 in late January. In addition to providing almost $51 billion for recovery and other projects, it amended the Stafford Act and key aspects of federal disaster assistance programs. Beyond the legislation, the hurricane also provoked debate on the underfunded National Flood Insurance Program, climate change and its impact on rising sea levels, the growing economic losses from disasters, community resiliency and rebuilding stronger versus not re-building at all. The country hasn’t witnessed this kind of national discourse related to a natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Yet even as these discussions took place, the harsh undercurrent of fiscal battles, partisan politics and citizens who require help persisted. Together, they have created an intense struggle that won’t be resolved any time soon.
 
The National Homeland Security Consortium (NHSC) is calling on leaders at all levels of government and the private sector to come together to address the increasingly complex and interdependent issues facing the nation. “With the 2012 elections behind us, now is the time for apolitical, non-partisan collaboration to advance national safety and security goals,” said John Madden, director, Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Madden is one of the tri-chairs for the NHSC, a voluntary group of 22 national associations formed in 2002 in an effort to collaboratively address homeland security issues.
 

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