The U.S. Conference of Mayors has asked the federal government to
cut red tape preventing cross-state, city-to-city mutual assistance
agreements in the event of natural or man-made disasters.
At issue is the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, or EMAC,
a state-to-state agreement that slowed the response to Hurricane
Katrina, said mayors at the organization’s annual conference.
The compact protects emergency responders from lawsuits and allows
state or local governments to apply for reimbursement from the federal
John Robert Smith, mayor of Meridian, Miss., said the evening after
Katrina hit, Davenport, Iowa, authorities e-mailed his office and
offered the use of 40 emergency services personnel who were prepared
that night to travel south, but the EMAC process caused a seven-day
delay. Allowing cities to respond within 24 hours is crucial, Smith
said. “It’s lifesaving and preserves communities.”
Martin O’Malley, co-chair of the conference’s homeland
security committee and mayor of Baltimore, said Maryland cities
can call on each other in times of need, but others must first go
through their own state’s EMAC bureaucracy, as well as the
state where the assistance is needed. “What we’re talking
about is executing agreements … with Richmond, [Va.], so if
Baltimore needs Richmond, Richmond comes,” O’Malley
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff acknowledged
in a one-hour closed door meeting with the mayors that EMAC was
“too cumbersome,” according to those attending the meeting.