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


...12 percent to 15 percent is what Arizona needs — is that going to be sufficient for other states? Or are they going to require more or less? Part of the challenge is retention and ensuring you have staff with appropriate levels of program knowledge. We utilize a reservist cadre that support our state-managed disasters and who also support our sub-grantees during state- only disasters. Retaining and keeping those individuals actively engaged can sometimes be difficult in a light disaster year. One of the things that we’ve done to try and overcome that and ensure that we are retaining these reservists for extended periods of time is to identify what are other areas of expertise that they possess based on their past work experience that we could be utilizing in other areas of the mission. Can we use them in exercises? Can they support our operations group? Can we train them to be field liaisons? What other training can we provide to them and how else can we integrate them into our workforce to plus-up in areas where we might have a shortfall?

Craig: That’s a great idea. Okay, I’m trying to think of any policy changes that can be made at FEMA while Administrator Long is thinking about this and while the FAA legislation is working through Congress, how do we figure out what the right dollar amount is? And it’s kind of a difficult question for anybody, but it’s more of a statement than a question to you, Wendy Smith-Reeve.

Smith-Reeve: Right. It is a difficult thing to quantify. Part of the challenge is you don’t want to just pick a number out of the air — so how do we back into what that number is made up of? I think the first place to start is, what does it cost for FEMA to administer an event for this program? So if we’re talking about just the singular program, what are the costs associated from an administrative level within FEMA? Certainly, the math has already been done, so how do we mine the data to quantify that and then overlay that onto state programs to do the math and say, well then this is what it would cost for the state of Arizona, the state of Wyoming, the state of Texas. You know, Oklahoma, pick a state, it’s going to look a little different in each — but where is the median?

Craig: Yes, there’s got to be a floor and then what is the percentage above that floor? What is the cost above that floor? Everybody will have basic floor costs. I mean, there is a fixed fee, if you will, versus a variable fee that every disaster is going to have. There’s a minimum cost.

Smith-Reeve: Yes.

Craig: Given all this and knowing your counterparts, and the budget and operational situation you are all in, are there times that you think it’s not appropriate for a state to manage a disaster?

Smith-Reeve: I think there’s a point where a state will not be able to take on state-managed, and each state would have to identify what that pinch point is. For example, the state of Vermont; I don’t know that Erica Bornemann would say: “Yes, we can manage a $40 million to $50 million disaster.” But could Florida? Could Texas? Could California? What does right look like for each state? So again, it goes back to doing the math, finding the median, and then making sure that it’s structured and appropriately based on the...