The NMI government effectively entered into an emergency pact with the enactment of legislation that allows such a pact to be made with other participating states to allow for a smoother response to disasters.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres enacted yesterday Public Law 21-7, a legislation introduced by Rep. Luis John Castro (R-Saipan) that seeks to have the CNMI participate in the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.
The compact opens up resources from the 50 participating states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands if needed in response to a disaster, whether it be natural, technological, man-made, or even an enemy attack.
However, this benefit comes with a cost.
The CNMI government will have to review individual state hazards analyses and determine all those potential emergencies other states might also suffer; review party states’ individual emergency plans and develop a plan which will determine the mechanism for the interstate management and provision of assistance concerning any potential emergency; develop interstate procedures to fill any gaps and to resolve any inconsistencies or overlaps in existing or developed plans, among several other responsibilities.
The Legislature believes that the cost “heavily outweighs the benefits.”
Effectively, the EMAC establishes a firm legal foundation for sharing resources between states. Once conditions for providing assistance to a requesting state are set, the terms constitute a legally binding agreement.
“The EMAC legislation solves the problems of liability and responsibilities of cost and allows for credentials, licenses, and certifications to be honored across state lines,” the EMAC website noted. “EMAC is implemented within the State Emergency Management Agency on behalf of the governor of the state. This provides a consistent and coordinated response across the nation.”
“This legislation…paves the way for quicker mobilization of resources in the event that another disaster comes our way,” Castro said in a statement. “The signing of this bill now designates the CNMI as a member of the [EMAC], a binding agreement between states and territories which enables them to share resources during natural and man-made disasters, including terrorism.”
Castro cited Super Typhoon Yutu, Typhoon Mangkhut, and Typhoon Soudelor as recent situations where EMAC participation could have benefited the CNMI.
“…This compact…is beneficial not just to bring our islands out of the stresses of recovery, but to hardwire and reinforce our infrastructure and our communities to be further disaster-ready,” he said.