State-Managed Disasters: Another Perspective


Where it’s going to be very tough on the left side of that bell curve is with the smaller disasters, where the economies of scale are such that 7 percent is not going to cover them because there are fixed costs in scaling up for disaster recovery. And then on the right side of that bell curve, those catastrophic events in which there just isn’t enough trained staffing within a state and even potentially with EMAC, those are going to be difficult for states. I think there’s an 80 percent solution in the middle. It’s going be those 10 percent on each side that are going to be challenges.

Andrews: You mentioned that North Dakota overcomes the capacity issue by implementing a reservist program and utilizing EMAC resources. What are some of the challenges with those programs?

Schulz: With the reservists, it’s finding the balance of how much funding we target for this in non-disaster times from a training perspective. And how do we keep our reservists engaged between disasters. That’s a challenge. A challenge with EMAC is primarily timing and funding. You generally need to get folks in very quickly when you’re actually doing an EMAC request. And then there are the expenses you’re going to have to pay them to travel here, lodge them and get them out and trained on some of those things I talked about, i.e., the geography, geology and other local characteristics. Those are the challenges I see in these areas.

Andrews: If you were to give some advice to other states considering participating in the State-Led Public Assistance options, what words of wisdomwould you give them?

Schulz: First of all, I’d say incrementalism is not the enemy here. If you’re not comfortable, don’t take everything on at once, take on one or two of the key areas. The other thing you can do is take on all three areas but just do it in a portion of the state and allow FEMA to cover the others. So start small.

“We have to continue to be creative to overcome the challenges. Probably the biggest one is funding — and again, it’s less about the amount of money than it is about the flexibility of how we can use it.”