FARGO, N.D. - With about 3,300 North Dakota National Guard members ready to respond to flooding this year, the strength of military readiness in the state is stronger than in the past two years when more Guard members were deployed overseas.
Nevertheless, the Guard is prepared to pull in additional assets, if needed, to supplement North Dakota's capabilities.
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact allows resources - whether personnel or equipment - to be used across state lines during emergencies or disasters. It's a nationally adopted and congressionally ratified mutual aid compact that states share responsibility in.
"In the past, EMAC has allowed us to supplement our own capabilities in the North Dakota National Guard with the skills and resources available through our neighboring states," said Army Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general.
"We take pride in being the first military responders to any emergency in our state, and our Soldiers and Airmen have proved their immense capabilities time and again," he said. "Through EMAC, we can enhance those capabilities for the betterment of those across our state."
This was proven in 2009 when, after a single phone call, a transportation company of Soldiers and their equipment reported in Fargo, ready for duty, within 24 hours of the call," Sprynczynatyk said.
In past years, the North Dakota National Guard used EMAC to bring in additional aviation assets to assist during flooding, such as large CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the Minnesota National Guard. The dual-rotor aircraft are able to lower as many as six 1-ton sandbags at a time.
This expedited response time during emergency situations.
That same year, when North Dakota saw statewide flooding and 2,000 North Dakota Guard members on duty at the peak of operations, the force was supplemented with an additional 250 Minnesota guardsmen on the ground, as well as 350 soldiers from the South Dakota National Guard.
While North Dakota has more personnel available this year due to the lowest deployment numbers in nearly a decade, discussions have already taken place with neighboring states to gauge potential resources for this year's flood. Minnesota, again, stands ready to assist with aviation assets, as does Wisconsin and Montana.
Personnel, along with Chinooks and Black Hawks, are on standby from these states should they be needed to help with medical evacuations, search and rescue missions, aerial reconnaissance and 1-ton sandbag transport.
Discussions and coordination also have taken place with Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.
North Dakota Guard members assisted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and in response to California wildfires through past EMACs. While the compact gives states necessary assistance during emergencies and disasters, the responders also gain from the experiential training they receive during real-world responses.
"The National Guard maintains a strong network nationwide to readily provide any assistance or specialty needed," Sprynczynatyk said. "As fellow Americans, we're all in this together - citizens, civilian responders and [Guard members]. By coordinating emergency response, individual state's National Guard forces work together to provide not only protection of life and property, but a good value for America, activating only when needed to help others."
No presidential disaster declaration is needed to launch an EMAC; rather, a governor's emergency declaration will suffice to use the system to bring in additional resources, which are funded by the requesting state.
A state's resources need not be exhausted to activate EMAC either. The compact often simply allows for different resources to be made available as the emergency situation dictates.
In North Dakota, the Department of Emergency Services manages EMACs, which are used by all state agencies, civilian and military.
EMAC provides just one more avenue in which the team concept is used to address emergency situations. During any stateside emergency that necessitates activation of the North Dakota National Guard, Soldiers and Airmen work closely with civilian responders and emergency managers in order to supplement one another's special skills and training. Through EMAC, those abilities and capabilities are further enhanced by bringing in resources from outside of North Dakota's boundaries.
Nationwide, EMAC has been used for everything from major hurricanes, floods and wildfires to the Columbia space shuttle disaster and terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.