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FEMA administrator: National Guard part of whole-of-community disaster response

By Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy | National Guard Bureau | Feb. 28, 2012

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. - The Emergency Assistance Compact - one of the agreements that allows National Guard elements from one state to assist others in neighboring states - is one part of a comprehensive response to catastrophic emergencies and natural disasters, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said here last week.

"All 50 states, several territories and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are all members of the Emergency Assistance Compact," Craig Fugate told the 2012 Domestic Preparedness Workshop co-hosted by the National Guard Bureau and U.S. Northern Command. "EMAC is frequently used by states to send resources, including available National Guard resources, across state lines in support of a disaster response."

That means focusing on an overall national preparedness and response strategy, as opposed to a patchwork of local responders.

The Presidential Policy Directive 8, signed by President Obama on March 30, 2011, instructs the federal government to take action to strengthen our nation's security and resilience against a variety of hazards, including terrorism, pandemics and catastrophic natural disasters.

PPD-8 reflects the Obama Administration's belief that the whole community - including all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and individual citizens - plays a key role in preparedness efforts.

"The president directed the federal government to develop a new national preparedness goal," Fugate said. "We are going to build frameworks around that goal and look at how we respond as a nation. Ultimately, we need to ensure that that response is meeting the needs of the 'whole-of-community'."

Fugate suggested that training and exercises should perhaps go beyond the breaking point moment. By exercising past the point of failure, the government has the ability to identify gaps in capabilities and resources.

Tying in local jurisdictions to a larger national preparedness and response plan is part of the process and many of those process elements are already in place.

"As we saw [with last year's tornados] across the Southeast and Midwest, the initial response in those disasters were local, state and mutual aid from neighboring states," said Fugate, adding that in some cases resources that were used in response to those events were put in place by local and state governments using Homeland Security funds.

In the end, Fugate said preparing for the next disaster means building resiliency. It means that we need to work together to ensure that the preparedness system we build considers the needs of the whole community - individuals, businesses, community - and faith-based organizations, schools and all levels of government. FEMA recognizes that the nation will be most prepared for threats and hazards when we work together.