EMAC: When a Neighbor Calls, the Guard Answers
July 16, 2013
While the National Guard continues to carry out its dual mission as an operational force at home and abroad, increasing response of Guardsmen to natural disasters has highlighted the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) as integral to providing affected states with assistance.
Since its enactment by Congress in 1996, largely as a response to the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, EMAC functions as a mutual aid partnership between states that allows the National Guard to provide disaster response to affected areas during emergencies declared by a state’s governor.
As rampant wildfires plague our Midwest and Southwestern states and hurricane season looms heavily over our nation’s coastal states, the National Guard is at a high state of readiness, eager to lend a helping hand when a neighbor calls. Through gap analysis talks and interstate communication facilitated by EMAC, Guard units are able to quickly and efficiently locate the resources they need from other units around the country and deploy those units and their resources to help protect the life and property of their fellow citizens.
Though the Guard is always the first responder to local and state emergencies in partnership with other local and state agencies, there are times when, for instance, the use of a modular airborne fire fighting system (MAFFS) is required to suppress uncontained fires in a state that lacks this capability. Through EMAC, that state can locate units like the 145th Airlift Wing in Charlotte, N.C., and the 153rd Airlift Wing in Cheyenne, Wyo., and request their assistance. The same principle is used when responding to other types of disasters that require a more specialized response or when the disaster is so catastrophic, as was the case during hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, that additional personnel and resources are needed to provide effective relief.
So far, the National Guard has made up 70 percent of requested and received assistance in catastrophic events since the adoption of EMAC. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office in 2007, 46,500 National Guard soldiers and airmen were called upon in 2005 to respond to areas affected by hurricanes. The report also highlighted the cost effectiveness of deploying Guardsmen under state active duty, or Title 32, depending on the scale of the disaster, as opposed to their federalized active-duty counterparts. EMAC deployment guides are available to assist Guardsmen who are called up once assisted and assisting states have collaborated with Request for Assistance (REQ-A) forms.
As we find ourselves in the middle of the worst season for natural disasters, which generally falls between May and October, and as the Guard faces furloughs of dual-status technicians as a result of sequestration, it is more important than ever that the versatile role of the citizen-soldier be acknowledged and utilized. EMAC offers a chance for these men and women, simultaneously in uniform and in our communities, to extend a hand to those in need.
Jake Jacobs is an intern in the NGAUS legislative department. He is studying political science at Auburn University.