State-Managed Disasters: An Interview with Arizona's Director of Emergency Management


...Emergency Managers), NEMA, FEMA and the regional offices together to really figure out what is out there, what the capabilities are and then roll out any mandate or rule for state-managed disaster initiatives, knowing what they have in front of him?

Smith-Reeve: I think that would be a great first start. With that approach, we are looking at it like a strategic plan. What is the strategic plan to get us there and what does that three-year, five-year model look like? But working together to quantify it and put some benchmarks out there, that would be the ideal way to handle it. That is really the only way you’re going to make it a reality. Otherwise we’re still going to be talking about it as an initiative three years from now.

Craig: As we roll into this and they do start moving along, would you think that an EMAC (Emergency Management Assistance Compact) would be helpful?

Smith-Reeve: Yes, and actually that was proposed by another state director recently with regard to how do we get there. If we understand that this is the intent, then how do we get there and what can we (states) do to support this initiative? We have to be part of the conversation. We can’t just sit there, put our fingers in our ears and say, “I’m not listening.” It’s going to come eventually, so be part of the solution rather than part of the resistance. EMAC is certainly a resource to help us get there. Arizona has deployed the most state-trained public assistance personnel to provide support via EMAC simply because we have the state cadre trained to execute the Public Assistance Program. We also have to have flexibility within our reservists cadre. If they are not assisting our state, they can work on behalf of another state to do the same thing that they would do here. EMAC has been a true benefit to states that have made the requests and continue to make the requests disaster after disaster.

Craig: That’s quite a testament to what you guys have done there, no question about it. One last question: Are there any minimum requirements for a state to participate in the program?

Smith-Reeve: The way I understand it — and I have not looked at the policy in awhile as to what it defines as requirements for state-managed — but that’s pretty much a relationship that you build with your region by demonstrating along the way your capability to administer the program. The region has a strong voice in whether or not headquarters and the president acknowledge and approve the request for...

“If we’re taking on a greater capability here at the state level and not just capacity, but we’re increasing our ability to shoulder the additional responsibility, there needs to be a top-down messaging approach … that speaks to leadership for the states.”