Order Code RS21227
Updated August 18, 2006
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
The Emergency Management Assistance
Compact (EMAC): An Overview
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
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. 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. Congress approved EMAC as an interstate
compact in 1996 (P.L. 104-321). Legislation pending before Congress (S. 3721, H.R.
5316, H.R. 5351) would authorize funds for the administration of EMAC. This report
will be updated as events warrant.
Overview. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) is an
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 to officials responding from
other states (except the power of arrest) equal to that held by residents 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
For information on EMAC, see [http://test.emacweb.org/?9], visited Apr. 25, 2006. See also
National Emergency Management Association, Emergency Management Assistance Compact:
Guidebook and Operating Procedures, August 2000.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), a professional association of
state emergency managers, administers the compact.2
Congressional Action. Congress approved EMAC through a joint resolution
passed in 1996.3 Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the authority to approve
interstate compacts.4 Since approval of the compact in 1996, the agreement has been the
focus of little, if any, debate in Congress.
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
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 effect or meaning.
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 Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency
(FEMA) to “assist and encourage the states to negotiate and enter into interstate
emergency preparedness compacts” and undertake other actions similar to those first
enacted in 1950.7
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 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
See National Emergency Management Association website: [http://www.nemaweb.org].
P.L. 104-321, 110 Stat. 3877.
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 ....”
P.L. 81-920, 64 Stat. 1249.
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, Feb. 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).
42 U.S.C. 5196(h).
The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission
Report (Washington: G.P.O, 2004), p. 397.
Congress responded to this recommendation. The Intelligence Reform and
Terrorism Prevention Act 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.
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 the areas around Miami, Florida. Then-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 1993.9 By 1995, the
agreement included all states and territories that wished to participate. All of the states
except California and Hawaii have ratified the EMAC provisions, generally by adopting
them in statutes.10 In addition, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin
Islands have ratified EMAC.11
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 retain these
emergency preparedness and civil defense compacts.12 In addition, a number of state
legislatures have ratified other interstate compacts or agreements that expedite emergency
assistance or military aid.13
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.
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.
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.
See Interstate Compacts & Agencies 2003, pp. 102-107.
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 the summary
volume, CRS Report RL32287, State Emergency Management and Homeland Security Statutory
Provisions: A Summary, by Keith Bea and Cheryl Runyon and Kae M. Warnock, consultants.
Requesting Assistance. 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
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.14
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 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.”15
Legal and Financial Aspects. One legal issue that EMAC is intended to resolve
concerns liability protection. A person from one state who renders assistance in another
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
NEMA, EMAC Guidebook, pp. 56-57.
Emergency Management Assistance Compact, amended Jan. 31, 1995, Article IV.
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.
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 rendering 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
Coordination with FEMA. When assistance is requested through EMAC, the
requesting state typically designates an official in its Emergency Operations Center (EOC)
to coordinate all out-of-state assistance, including assistance from other states and federal
agencies. The compact is intended to ensure coordination with the Department of
Homeland Security, generally through FEMA. In case of large multi-state disasters, an
advance team comprised of state resources (also known as an A-Team) may be deployed
to each affected state under the provisions of EMAC. When necessary, additional ATeams are dispatched to FEMA headquarters, FEMA regional operations centers, and
other locations. The A-Team’s mission is to facilitate the coordination of EMAC
resources and provide consolidated status reports on EMAC activities to officials in each
Possible Issues for Congressional Consideration
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 provides insights on the benefits and challenges encountered.17
According to the survey, half of these issues associated with EMAC
deployments were not 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.
The National Response Plan issued by DHS sets out the framework for
coordination among federal and non-federal agencies. Federal response
teams possess particular skills and resources associated with terrorist
NEMA, EMAC Guidebook, p. 61.
“EMAC Post-Deployment Survey Results,” available at [http://test.emacweb.org/?866], visited
Apr. 25, 2006. Hereafter cited as EMAC Survey Results.
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.18 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 needs improvement.19 Federal policies provide
significant direction and assistance in preparedness as well as response
activities.20 Members of 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.”21
Accordingly, bills pending before Congress (S. 3721, H.R. 5351, and
H.R. 5316) would all authorize funds for the administration of EMAC.
The Senate bill would also allow funds to be used to improve the system,
state coordination with federal agencies, and credentialing procedures.
Members of Congress might elect to consider legislation that would
expand mutual aid authority beyond that exercised in the Washington,
DC, area. For example, Chapter 2 of Subtitle H (Section 5102 - 5105) of
H.R. 10 (108th Congress), the “9/11 Recommendations Implementation
Act,” would have authorized federal, state, and local representatives to
negotiate agreements and would have established liability provisions
commensurate with those held by the state in which the respondents are
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 [http://www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandDefense/bg1923.cfm], visited Apr. 25,
EMAC Survey Results.
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.
2004 After-Action Report: Emergency Management Assistance Compact, p. 13, available at
[http://www.emacweb.org/], visited Apr. 25, 2006.