The need for immediate response following a disaster is critical and challenging. When a disaster exceeds the capacity of a state to respond, the Interstate Emergency Response Support Plan (IERSP) allows neighboring states to supply needed resources in a swift and efficient manner using the unified command system.
A plan must be tested and exercised to be perfected. That’s why top emergency management personnel from each of the five states in FEMA Region VI, along with leaders and representatives from FEMA Region VI, attended a table-top exercise in College Station in March. During the exercise, participants worked through a worst-case disaster scenario to outline details of how the plan should be implemented. According to Johnna Cantrell, TDEM State Coordinator for Preparedness and Operations, the exercise provided each of the states and FEMA Region VI the opportunity to work through the plan and to gain familiarity with personnel, processes and procedures.
“The main goals of the exercise were to run through how the process of communicating with each other will work and identify the best tools to use and communication practices to implement to effectively work the plan,” Cantrell said. “This was a great opportunity for key players from each state to meet face to face, and work together to create solutions, policies, and guidelines to define the best ways to help support each other in the future where and when needed.”
Over the years, the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas have relied on agreements that allow each state to support one another following a disaster. Yet there remained a need for an even greater rapid response to reach an affected area within the first 72 hours following a disaster.
To meet that need, leaders of the emergency management agencies from Texas and neighboring states, along with leaders from FEMA Region VI met in December 2009 to sign off on the IERSP. Former TDEM Chief Jack Colley initiated the meeting and collaboration among the leaders to establish the plan. Region VI is the first in the nation to create and implement such a plan.
“It is because our dear friend and colleague, Jack Colley, had the foresight to help facilitate the creation of this plan that all five states in the region can function in full support of each other – immediately and innovatively,” said FEMA Region VI Administrator Tony Russell.
FEMA Region VI has provided funds for additional planning to include each of the Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) and associated resources. Leaders with each emergency management agency and FEMA Region VI will continue to work together to revise the plan as needed.
During a disaster in which the IERSP is used, liaison officers from each state forward deploy to the affected state and work together to determine what resources are needed and which state can supply them. Left, liaison officers from each state work together during the March IERSP table-top exercise in College Station.
(Photo by Rachel Jordan-Shuss)