The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC): An Overview

The Emergency Management Assistance Compact
(EMAC): An Overview
July 21, 2008
Bruce R. Lindsay
Analyst in Emergency Management Policy
Government and Finance Division

The Emergency Management Assistance Compact
(EMAC): An Overview
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) is an agreement
among member states to provide assistance after disasters overwhelm a state’s
capacity to manage consequences. The compact, initiated by the states and
coordinated by the National Emergency Management Association, provides a
structure for requesting emergency assistance from party states. In 1996 Congress
approved EMAC as an interstate compact (P.L. 104-321). EMAC also resolves
some, but not all, potential legal and administrative obstacles that may hinder such
assistance at the state level. EMAC also enhances state preparedness for terrorist
attacks by ensuring the availability of resources for fast response and facilitating
multi-state cooperation in training activities and preparedness exercises.
In June of 2008, a bill to reform mutual aid agreements for the National Capital
Region (P.L. 110-250) was enacted to expand the types of organizations and agencies
in the region that are authorized to enter into agreements and ease the requirements
for agents and volunteers to respond to an incident. Legislation in the 110th Congress
(S. 1452) would require EMAC to ensure that licensed mental health professionals
with expertise in treating vulnerable populations are included in the leadership of the
National Disaster Medical System and are available for deployment with Disaster
Medical Assistance Teams.
This report will be updated as events warrant. This report is an update based
upon a previous report written by Keith Bea, Specialist in American National

Overview ....................................................1
Legislative Actions............................................1
Historical Overview........................................1
Current Legislative Activity - 110th Congress....................2
State Actions.................................................3
The Process of Requesting Assistance through EMAC.................4
Legal and Financial Aspects.....................................5
Possible Issues for Congressional Consideration......................6

The Emergency Management Assistance
Compact (EMAC): An Overview
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) is a congressionally
ratified interstate mutual aid compact that provides a legal structure by which states
affected by a catastrophe may request emergency assistance from other states.1
Signatories to the compact resolve potential legal and financial obstacles that states
might otherwise encounter as they provide assistance to the stricken state (or states).
The compact sets out the responsibilities of the signatory states, provides authority
(except the power of arrest) to officials responding from other states equal to that
held by those of the affected state, assures reciprocity in recognizing professional
licenses or permits for professional skills, and provides liability protection (in certain
areas) to responders from other states. The compact requires that signatory states
develop plans to evacuate civilian population centers. Reimbursement and
compensation provisions are also included in EMAC. The National Emergency
Management Association (NEMA), a professional association of state emergency2
managers, administers the compact.
Legislative Actions
Historical Overview. Congress approved EMAC through a joint resolution
passed in 1996.3 The U.S. Constitution generally prohibits states from entering into
a compact with one another unless Congress consents.4 Since approval of the
compact in 1996, the agreement has been the focus of little, if any, debate in
While it is a relatively recent innovation, antecedents for EMAC stretch back
decades. The Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950 (CDA) authorized the Federal Civil
Defense Administrator to “assist and encourage the states to negotiate and enter into
interstate civil defense compacts” and undertake other actions that would “permit the

1 For information on EMAC, see []. See also National Emergency
Management Association, Emergency Management Assistance Compact: Guidebook and
Operating Procedures, [
Operations/Logistics/EMAC%20Guidebook%202002/intro2002.pdf], September 2002.
2 See National Emergency Management Association website: [].
3 P.L. 104-321, 110 Stat. 3877.
4 Art. 1, Sec. 10, cl. 3 of the U.S. Constitution provides that “No State shall, without the
Consent of Congress .... enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State ....”

furnishing of mutual aid for civil defense purposes in the event of an attack ....”5
After years of minimal funding, considerable opposition, and scant public support for
civil defense activities, the CDA remained in the U.S. Code but had little application.
In light of concerns raised after Hurricane Andrew devastated south Florida in 1992,
Congress incorporated many of the provisions of the CDA into Title VI, “Emergency
Preparedness,” of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Act in 1994 (the Stafford Act).6 Similar to the authority given in the CDA, Title VI
of the Stafford Act authorizes the FEMA Administrator to “assist and encourage the
states to negotiate and enter into interstate emergency preparedness compacts” and
to adopt reciprocal emergency preparedness legislation at the state level.7
Emergency management mutual aid and EMAC received mention in the final
report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the
9/11 Commission), which noted that multi-jurisdictional mutual assistance compacts
should be promoted; EMAC resolves mutual aid issues at the state, but not sub-state
jurisdictional level. The commission also specifically recommended that Congress
enact legislation to address “long-standing indemnification and liability
impediments” to emergency response mutual aid in the National Capital Region of
the District of Columbia and parts of Virginia and Maryland.8
Congress responded to this recommendation. The Intelligence Reform and
Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) of 2004 (P.L.108-458) authorizes state and local
government officials in the National Capital Region (NCR), and federal officials, to
enter into mutual aid agreements for emergency response, preparing for or recovering
from an emergency, or training for such activities. The law also specifies that EMAC
provisions are not affected by the legislation.9
Current Legislative Activity - 110th Congress. In April 2007
Senator Benjamin Cardin introduced legislation (S. 1245) to amend the IRTPA
provisions relevant to the National Capital Region. On June 26, 2008, President10
Bush signed the legislation into law. Among other provisions, the statute gave
assenting jurisdictions more flexibility over which personnel they can call on to help
them give assistance. The statute also made all governmental agencies, authorities,
and institutions within the region eligible to participate in mutual aid agreements.

5 P.L. 81-920, 64 Stat. 1249.
6 P.L. 103-337, 108 Stat. 3110-3107. A brief overview of the Civil Defense Act is presented
in: William R. Cumming, “The Civil Defense Legacy,” Journal of Civil Defense, vol. 37,
February 2004: pp. 3-5. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, interest in
the concept of civil defense has reemerged. See Amanda J. Dory, Civil Security: Americans
and the Challenge of Homeland Security (Washington: The Center for Strategic and
International Studies, 2003).
7 42 U.S.C. 5196(h).
8 The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, The 9/11
Commission Report (Washington: GPO, 2004), p. 397.
9 P.L. 108-458, 118 Stat. 3840, 42 U.S.C. 5196 note.
10 P.L. 110-250

Another bill introduced in the 110th Congress, the Public Mental Health
Emergency Preparedness Act of 2007 (S. 1452), would require EMAC to ensure that
licensed mental health professionals with expertise in treating vulnerable populations
are available for deployment with Disaster Medical Assistance Teams and are
included in the leadership of the National Disaster Medical System.11
State Actions
Many questions were raised about the capability of the federal and non-federal
governments to manage the consequences of disasters after Hurricane Andrew
destroyed much of the infrastructure in areas around Miami, Florida. Then-Florida
Governor Lawton Chiles initiated discussions with other governors through the
Southern Governors Association to develop a mutual aid agreement. These
discussions concluded with agreement by 17 states, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands
and Puerto Rico, to adopt the Southern Regional Emergency Management Compact
(SREMAC) in 1993.12 In an effort to expand the emergency preparedness interstate
compact nationwide, governors agreed to revise the initial compact as EMAC. By
1995, all states except California and Hawaii ratified the EMAC provisions, generally
by adopting them in statutes.13 Currently, all fifty states, the District of Columbia,
Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam, are signatory parties of the EMAC
agreem ent . 14
EMAC is not the only interstate compact adopted by the states to speed
assistance after disasters occur. As noted above, for decades Congress has authorized
executive branch officials to negotiate civil defense compacts. Many state codes still

11 For more information on the National Disaster Medical System see CRS Report RL33579,
The Public Health and Medical Response to Disasters: Federal Authority and Funding, by
Sarah A. Lister.
12 For background on the development of the SREMAC and EMAC, see William Kevin
Voit, Interstate Compacts & Agencies 2003 (Lexington, KY: The Council of State
Governments, 2003), p. 102.
13 The governor of Hawaii is authorized to enter into mutual aid agreements with other
states. See Hawaii Rev. Stat. §128-10(3),(4). Similarly, the governor of California is
authorized to enter into reciprocal aid equipment compacts and mutual aid plans with other
states. See Cal. Gov’t. Code §8632. However, note that according to research conducted
by the Council of State Governments, “at least some of the states that NEMA reports as
EMAC members only list the [SREMAC] in their statutes, not EMAC.” See Interstate
Compacts & Agencies 2003, p. 102.
14 As noted above, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were original signatory
jurisdictions of the SREMAC. Two insular areas of the United States provide for mutual
aid agreements, but are not participants of EMAC. If the government of Guam provides
assistance outside the territory, the recipient state is to provide reimbursement pursuant to
the applicable mutual aid agreement. See Guam Code Ann. Tit. 10 §65109. The governor
of American Samoa is authorized to enter into an emergency assistance mutual aid compact
with any state or U.S. possession, under specified conditions. See American Samoa Code
Ann. §26.0108.

retain these emergency preparedness and civil defense compacts.15 In addition, a
number of state legislatures have ratified other interstate compacts or agreements that
expedite emergency assistance or military aid.16
The Process of Requesting Assistance through EMAC
EMAC provides that member states may request assistance when struck by a
disaster, or when a disaster is deemed imminent. EMAC establishes a procedure for
requesting assistance, and lists the responsibilities of requesting states and assisting
states. Among other things, the emergency management director in a requesting state
is responsible for:
!confirming that the governor has declared a state of emergency;
!creating a list of needed resources, including manpower, specialized
skills, and equipment;
!alerting the EMAC standing response team that assistance may be
needed; and,
!if necessary, contacting a specific state to alert appropriate
authorities that a specific resource may be needed.
EMAC also lists the responsibilities of the emergency management director in
an assisting state. These include:
!confirming that the state has the resources to match the request for
!notifying the governor of the specific resources that have been
requested and receiving the governor’s approval to deploy the
resources; and,
!responding to the requesting state within two hours, specifying the
extent to which the requesting assistance can be provided.17
Some resources are commonly found in states, such as mobile command
vehicles, public assistance teams, and temporary shelters. Some specialized
resources, such as cargo aircraft, donations management teams, and technical rescue
teams, are found in relatively fewer states. EMAC provides emergency management

15 See Interstate Compacts & Agencies 2003, pp. 102-107.
16 Refer to the profiles of state emergency management and homeland security mutual aid
provisions in the series of Congressional Research Service reports that are listed in CRS
Report RL32287, State Emergency Management and Homeland Security Statutory
Provisions: A Summary, by Keith Bea and Cheryl Runyon and Kae M. Warnock,
17 NEMA, EMAC Guidebook, pp. 56-57.

directors a menu of specialized resources that may be called upon during a disaster,
should the need arise.
EMAC does not require states to provide assistance when it is requested. A
provision explains that assisting states “may withhold resources to the extent
necessary to provide reasonable protection for such state.”18
Legal and Financial Aspects
Articles V and VI of EMAC address professional qualifications and immunity
from liability. A person from one state who renders assistance in another state and
who holds a license, certificate, or other permit for professional, mechanical, or other
skills, is considered under the EMAC provisions to be licensed, certified, or
permitted to exercise those duties in the requesting state, subject to limitations or
conditions set by the governor of the requesting state. Where officers or employees
of one state render aid to another under EMAC, they are treated as agents of the
requesting state for tort and immunity purposes. Neither the officers or employees
of the state providing assistance, nor that state itself, would face liability for acts or
omissions in good faith while rendering aid (including providing supplies and related
equipment). Good faith in this context does not include willful misconduct, gross
negligence, or recklessness. Also, under Article IV of EMAC, emergency forces are
to enjoy duties, privileges, and powers (other than arrest power) comparable to those
under the law of the state where assistance is being given,
EMAC also is intended to resolve the issue of reimbursement for loss, damage,
or expenses incurred by a state that provides aid in response to a request for
assistance. The compact establishes a standard process that guarantees such
reimbursement to the states that lend assistance. It does not preclude states that
render aid from assuming some or all of these attendant costs, or from loaning
equipment or donating services. The states can also enter into supplemental
agreements on the allocation of costs. Depending upon whether the President has
made a disaster declaration, states rendering aid may be eligible for reimbursement
not only from the state receiving assistance, but also from the federal government.
At the same time, states remain primarily responsible for the pay and benefits of their
own personnel.

18 Emergency Management Assistance Compact, amended January 31, 1995, Article IV.

Possible Issues for Congressional Consideration
In evaluating the need for further modifications to EMAC, Congress may elect
to consider the following issues.
!States have varying levels of capability to respond to catastrophic
disasters. In general, investigations on the response to Hurricane
Katrina concluded that EMAC-sponsored assistance worked well
and expeditiously. However, some problems have been identified.
A survey conducted by the National Emergency Management
Association (NEMA) on EMAC deployments made in response to
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita provided insights on the benefits and
challenges encountered.19 According to the survey, half of the issues
(including communication problems, reimbursement, and personnel
qualifications) associated with the EMAC deployments had not been
resolved. These, and other types of deficiencies, may complicate
mutual aid efforts in the future. Members of Congress might elect to
evaluate the means by which the availability of EMAC assistance is
incorporated in the evaluation of state capabilities.20
!The National Response Framework issued by DHS sets out
guidelines for coordination among federal and non-federal agencies.
Federal response teams possess particular skills and resources
associated with terrorist attacks. EMAC is intended to facilitate fast
deployment of specialized response units, such as hazardous
materials teams, across state lines. Congress might elect to consider
legislative changes to ensure that state and federal response teams
operate efficiently and coordinate operations.
!Emergency management practices, procedures, and policies rely
upon a complex array of intergovernmental actions that derive in
part from state authorities.21 EMAC is arguably one of the more
important instruments for intergovernmental aid. The survey of
EMAC deployments made after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
indicated that education and training in EMAC procedures need
improvement.22 Federal policies provide significant direction and

19 “EMAC Post-Deployment Survey Results,” available at [].
Hereafter cited as EMAC Survey Results.
20 Further research and survey follow-up will be required to determine whether unresolved
issues identified after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 remain matters of concern in 2008.
21 For a discussion of the federalist nature of emergency management policy see James Jay
Carafano and Richard Weitz, “Learning from Disaster: The Role of Federalism and the
Importance of Grassroots Response,” Backgrounder, The Heritage Foundation, March 21,

2006, available at [].

22 EMAC Survey Results.

assistance in preparedness as well as response activities.23 Congress
might elect to consider whether the statutory provisions that
authorize federal preparedness assistance might be amended to
ensure that federal preparedness assistance is linked to
implementation of EMAC. Also, Members might consider a call for
the federal government “to nurture EMAC capabilities” and provide
“a steady and reliable funding source that is not now in place.”24
!Congress might elect to reconsider legislative provisions not adopted
in the debate over IRTPA in the 108th Congress. Whereas the Senate
version, adopted by Congress in IRTPA, focused on the National
Capital Region, the House version of the legislation (H.R. 10) would
have allowed authorized federal, state, and local representatives
nationwide to negotiate agreements for the provision of services in
emergencies or “a public service event.” The bill also would have
authorized the provision of mutual aid services for all emergency
management phases of emergencies or public service events, and
would have allowed the participation of the parties in training
exercises. The House bill also would have established that the
operative liability provisions would be commensurate with those
held by the state in which the respondents are normally operational,
among other matters. Members of the 110th Congress may wish to
evaluate whether similar authority concerning mutual aid agreements
would be appropriate additions to the portfolio of federal mutual aid
provisions in the wake of lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina
and other disasters.
!S. 1452, currently pending before the 110th Congress, would
establish the National Center for Public Mental Health Emergency
Preparedness (NCPMHEP) to address mental health concerns
associated with disasters. The Center would be tasked with
coordinating and implementing the development and delivery of
mental health services in the event of bioterrorism or other public
health emergencies. If established as proposed, a question would
arise: How would officials associated with the Center coordinate
with the mental health capabilities of the states through EMAC

23 For a summary of federal assistance programs, see CRS Report RL32696, Fiscal Year
2005 Homeland Security Grant Program: State Allocations and Issues for Congressional
Oversight, by Shawn Reese.
24 2004 After-Action Report: Emergency Management Assistance Compact, p. 13, available
at [], visited April 25, 2006.