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


...size of the state. It’s no different than the impact model that we have right now. We have to scale it appropriately.

Craig: Would you and your colleagues be advocates for FEMA throwing a number out there? Administrator Long has thrown out $40 million to $50 million in disaster size that states should be able to handle. Should FEMA say within three years you will be able to handle that size disaster? That they will help you with the tools to get you there, but you must be able to do it? If you can’t, you must specifically ask for a waiver with an explanation as to why you can’t do it at that point?

Smith-Reeve: I think that’s certainly reasonable in my opinion, but some of my counterparts might disagree. I think the approach for this needs to be both top down and bottom up. 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 possibly through the NGA (National Governor’s Association) that speaks to leadership for the states.

The messaging needs to inform the states that they need to be ready to accept responsibility for these program(s) and let us help you build that capability. What is it that you need? Having only the bottom- up messaging doesn’t always result in the financial support required to elevate our baseline capability. Understanding that state leaders are receiving the message and understand that they are going to be accountable for taking an action as a result, that’s the critical point here; it can’t just be bottom up, it has to be both. I think together we need to say, “What does right look like and how do we accomplish this goal?” How do we demonstrate capability and capacity to do state-managed in other areas of the nation?

Craig: We can talk about Vermont, North Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming. There are a lot of states that rarely have disasters. Currently, doing a $40 million to $50 million disaster would be very difficult for them to manage themselves, just given the resources they have, the risks that they see on a day-to-day basis and the needs they have. If FEMA threw it out there and provided technical assistance, maybe the money to back it, which alternately, you know, if FEMA gave them money for every state to be able to handle disasters, the cost savings would be enormous on their behalf in the long term. Do you think states like Vermont, North Dakota andWyoming — pick a state that doesn’t have a lot of disasters — could manage it given all the right resources, all the right...

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