EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation January 27, 2010
Make Your Local EM Voice Heard
Effectively Engaging with Elected Representatives
International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM)
Larry J. Gispert
Director, Hillsborough County
The following has been prepared from a transcription of the recording. The complete slide set (Adobe PDF) may be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/IAEM/Make Your Local Emergency Management Voice Heard.pdf for ease of printing.
[Welcome / Introduction]
Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone. Welcome to EMforum.org. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as Moderator today. We are very glad you could join us.
Our topic today is "Make Your Local EM Voice Heard: Effectively Engaging with Elected Representatives," including current emergency management policy issues before Congress, and how you can get involved to ensure your local priorities are reflected. Since we are about to enter the FY 2011 federal budget cycle, this is a good time to discuss this important topic.
Please note that there is a link to the International Emergency Managers Association (IAEM) Government Affairs committee on todays background page, OR you can click on the photo of the Capitol building on our home page.
Please also note that there are a few handouts for todays program, which you can access by clicking on the icon of the three overlapping note pages at the top right of your screen.
Now it is my pleasure to introduce todays guests:
Martha Braddock serves as Policy Advisor for the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) where she develops and implements strategies to engage Congress, partner organizations, and Federal departments and agencies on key issues to local emergency managers. In addition, Ms. Braddock is a consultant to colleges and universities, associations, and corporations on a wide range of homeland security, emergency management, mitigation, and legislative matters.
Martha served fifteen years in senior management positions during three different Administrations at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington, D. C., including Director of Congressional and Legislative Affairs and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Larry J. Gispert serves as Emergency Management Director for Hillsborough County Florida in Tampa. Mr. Gispert is a previous president of IAEM and has served as liaison with IAEM's Government Affairs Committee. Larry has worked closely with Martha on Capitol Hill and has testified before the U.S. Congress numerous times with great success.
Larry is certified by the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association (FEPA) as a professional emergency manager and has previously held offices in that organization.
Please see the Background Page for additional biographical information. Welcome to you both, and thank you very much for being with us today. We are going to begin with a few quick poll questions and I now turn the floor over to Martha to start us off please.
Martha Braddock: Thank you, Amy. Larry Gispert and I very much appreciate being invited today. Its very timely because the Congressional games of 2011 are about to begin. We would like to have you answer a few poll questions so that Larry and I can see who is represented in our audience.
Question 1: If you are an emergency manager, please indicate the type jurisdiction or organization you serve:
Question 2: Do you know who currently represents your jurisdiction in the U.S. House of Representatives?
Question 3: Have you had contact (phone, email, personal, fax) with your Representative (Member of the House) or Senator, or his/her staff in the last two years ?
Question 4: In your jurisdiction are you allowed to contact Members of Congress or staff?
Question 5: Are you a member of your state association of local emergency managers?
Question 6: Do you visit the IAEM Government Affairs Committee website for policy or legislative information?
Martha Braddock: 2009 was a really exciting year for emergency managers. Working together locally, emergency managers did make a real difference in budget legislation. In emergency management policy, we had many more opportunities to engage with the administration on policy as key stakeholders, and we appreciated it. 2010 will be a very important and challenging one, and the voice of emergency managers needs to be heard this year as well.
First, wed like to ask you a few questions. The first one you need to think about is youre saying, "I dont have time to make contactsomebody else can do it." You need to think aboutwho do you want to tell members of Congress and FEMA what local emergency managers need. Someone is going to tell them. And you may not like the answers.
Do you want it to be someone who has just a "what theyve read in the newspaper" view of emergency management? Do you want it to be a vendor with a product to sell? Do you want it to be someone who only has an academic understanding?
It will be important that you engage because some of the issues are going to bewhat are the changes that need to be made to the Stafford Act? How much should we fund emergency management performance grants? What should the guidance on what you can use EMPGs be? Think about who you want to tell them.
Larry Gispert: One of the strange things Martha and I have found in our conversations with members of Congress is how they are really ignorant of what local emergency managers do on a daily basis. They just think its magic. They have no concept of what youre doing, and as a consequence, they are always wondering why do you want more money if you dont do anything.
Martha Braddock: Part of what it is, is we know what firefighters do, we know what police do, but what do emergency managers do when theyre not sitting in meetings? By the way, that is a direct quote.
Martha Braddock: Why would members of Congress or their staff want to hear from you? Folks say, "Martha, why dont you and Larry and Randy and Mike Selves, why dont you just take care of it? Why do we have to engage?"
Larry Gispert: When were talking with somebody from South Carolina, theyre very courteous people, but they want to know what South Carolinians need and want. The first thing they are going to ask is, "What do my people in South Carolina want?" Martha and I might not be able to tell them because we might not know. But if we have someone from South Carolina contacting these people, theyd know what South Carolina wants, or Michigan, or Wisconsin, or all the other states in the union. They want to hear from the troops back home.
Martha Braddock: Larry and I can tell all the differencewhen I walk into an office talking about increasing funding for Emergency Management Performance Grants, I will hear, "Why havent I heard from my state, or why havent I heard from my locals if this is important?" When we walk into an office and they say, "Oh, I already know all about EMPGweve heard," it makes all the difference.
What you have to remember is why you are important to their vote. You have information they need. You are the ones who can give them assistance when disaster strikes. You can invite them to things that give them visibility and knowledge.
Larry Gispert: And you may live in their hometown.
Martha Braddock: Why is outreach to members of Congress and their staff important? Part of it is going back to what Larry said about being sure that they understand what you do and why it matters in their communities and how much they should fund the programs that matter to you. Also, if you get a disaster, youre going to want to know that staff beforehand.
Larry Gispert: I have an example. When we met with our Florida delegation, half of them believed that we only work in Florida during the hurricane season, from June November. The rest of the time, that we are sitting at our desks not doing anything. Let me give you an exampletoday, Florida and myself personally are involved in a Haitian refugee recovery. We just received a flight last night of twenty plus medically dependent people that needed to come into our hospitals. Congress doesnt know that we do that. They think Florida does nothing but hurricanes.
One example of the results of Congressional action and all of us working together are the increases that we have been able to get in Emergency Management Performance Grants. I quoted on the slide here what the budget request was in FY 2004 after FEMA went into the Department of Homeland Security. The number was up to $151,000,000. You never in appropriations want something to be "up to". You want it to be "no less than" or a specific number. You never want a ceiling.
It also said that none of it could be used for personnel. Most of our members use it for personnel, so basically that would be almost zeroing it. It wanted a priority on terrorism. It took a great deal of work, from us, from our partners at NEMA and NATO and League of Cities and other organizations who care about this to get it up to $180,000,000, and no limitation on personnel, and best of all, we got it into a separate account.
Money cannot be taken out of that without Congressional approval, and the clarification that it is all-hazards. We have continued to work. One of our strongest supporters was Senator Voinovich (R) from Ohio who led the charge for adding 5-10 million at a time. Now we are up to, in 2010, $340,000,000. It is still a separate account, although the Office of Management and Budget every year tries to put it in with other grants. It is still all-hazards.
Larry Gispert: Thats $340,000,000 for the entire country.
Martha Braddock: Were going to have to work on that one again this year. We do not know what the budget request is going to be, but I can assure you that we are going to have to work it hard because there is going to be great competition for that money. We certainly hope with this great increase in EMPG that local emergency managers are seeing increases being awarded to their jurisdictions.
Martha Braddock: The upcoming opportunities to engage: tonight is the State of the Union. Youll hear some of the Presidents priorities for the coming year. You have seen in the newspapers, or if you see the emails I send out, the President is going to propose not increasing whats called "discretionary accounts". Department of Defense and Homeland Security are among those that are supposedly exempt. That doesnt mean that well have a free ride within the committee.
When the Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Homeland Security, gets their allocations, there is going to be fierce competition to put more money in airline security and more money in border security. Were going to need your help. The actual budget will be submitted to Congress (or it is supposed to be) this year on February 1. I will be putting a memo on the IAEM Government Affairs website about the key issues that are in there that are of interest to us.
I will warn you that the Presidents budget always has some surprises that the Office of Management and Budget has put in there that we may not understand exactly what it means. For instance, one year, it said "EMPG will have a priority for urban areas." FEMA didnt write that language. No one on the hill knew what it meant. People told us to forget itit didnt mean anything.
Well put out a budget, and then Ill be very carefully going through the official budget submission of the department that is much more detailed that will be going to Congress, and well have another memo on that.
Larry Gispert: Martha, another question you might want to ask next time you do a survey, is how many listeners on todays conference actually receive and read what we affectionately call "Martha-grams"?
Martha Braddock: The Martha-grams, as I hope theyre affectionately called, go out to the leadership of IAEM, and I also send them to the President and the legislative chairs of the State Associations of Local Emergency Managers and ask them to distribute them.
I dont send Martha-grams unless there is something key. For example, the explanation of what is in the Presidents budget that is a concern for us will go out. What IAEM decides are our main 4 or 5 main priorities for this year will go out. I will send out one asking people to please request that their House of Representatives put Emergency Management Performance Grants funding in their priority letters.
Id like to explain that for a moment. Every member of Congress sends a letter to each of the Appropriation Subcommittee Chairs. Thats on the House and the Senate. It has to go from the memberthey call them letters, but basically they do it electronicallyand they put in there what are their priorities within that budget. Some of them are earmarked, but also, EMPG is a program, not an earmark. It is very important that members of Congress have it on their priority list.
I will be sending out information about how to do that. For example, you have to be sure that you say, "Within the budget of the Department of Homeland Security, in the FEMA account, its a program called EMPG. The President requested funding thisI urge you to make it a priority for increasing it to, or maintaining (well have to see what the numbers are)and then you need to tell, this is why EMPG is important to our jurisdiction.
This isnt one of those things where you can send a post card and say, "Please fund EMPG", and it goes into a folder. They have to know why it matters to youwhat theyre getting for their money. On the Senate, its the same process, but theres an additional step in the Senate. I had posted in one of the background materials the list of the senators who last year signed what we referred to as the annual EMPG letter. This letter is sponsored by a Republican senator and a Democratic senator.
This year the Republican Senator will be Senator Roberts of Kansas who is co-sponsoring the cause. The State of Kansas Emergency Management Association asked him tohe sponsored it last year and we had 39 senators sign it last year. This letter is extremely important and there will be Martha-grams urging you to contact your senators.
This isnt something where you place a phone call, you get an intern at the front desk, and you say, "Please ask my senator to sign." You have to ask, "Can you tell me who on the senators staff would handle an issue regarding"and tell them what it is, get the key staffer, get their email address, and follow up. We dont send letters anymore, because they go off to be anthrax treated, and they come back crispy 2 or 3 weeks later. We do emails, we do faxes, but you have to have a personal contact.
Larry, do you want to tell what it took to get the Florida senators on?
Larry Gispert: Martha had been bugging me for quite some time. She wanted to get 50 senators to sign this letter about 2 years ago. She wanted to be sure that Florida was on there because of the importance of the hurricane state and everything else like that. At that time, we had one Democratic senator and one Republican senator.
The Democratic senator, for some unknown reason, signed it right away. The Republican senator refused to sign. Martha said, "Larry, youve got to get him to sign." I dont know how many phone calls I made to his local office, to his regional office, and to his Washington office. I finally got hold of what I believed to be the chief of his staff in Washington, and I kept telling him, "I want the senator to sign this letter."
After he finally didnt, I said, "Listen, read my lips. Im going to call you every day, twice a day, in the morning and in the afternoon, until the senator signs the letter. You tell him, regardless of politics, this is important to Florida. This is a Florida issue. He needs to sign it for Florida." Against the White House prohibition, he signed the letter.
Sometimes some of the stick-to-it-ness youve got to do is very, very important, that you get your senators to support it regardless of political persuasion.
Martha Braddock: One thing I would add, there are some senators that youll notice on the list, cant or will not sign. Senators Byrd and Voinovich are very supportive, but the letter is to them, so they dont sign. There are a few senators who say, "Im on the Approps committee, I dont sign, but I am supportive and it will be in my priorities". Thats okay, too. But its an important issue.
One of the reasons its important is, if you look at that list, you can now go back to the ones who signed last year and say to the staff, "The senator signed it this yearwe hope he will support us again." If people in committees try, in order to fund, say in the full committees, in order to add money to border crossing, folks have to show where they want to take money from. Someone may say, "Why not EMPG?" There would be an amendment to take $50,000,000 out of EMPG and move it somewhere else.
If that happened, there would be a Martha-gram going out saying, "Please contact the senators and remind them that they signed a letter supporting blank amount and urging them to vote against this." Once you get that first signature, its very useful to the staff to continue to be engaged.
Martha Braddock: Another key thing were going to be sending out is, last year we sent out a survey, or questionnaire. There will be another one distributed soon. Well post it on our website. Well send it out to the state associations. We hope that you will participate.
One of the things we very much need is specific examples of the benefit of EMPG for Congress. We have been specifically asked by Senate Appropriations to come up with specific examples. Do you want to give them a specific example, Larry?
Larry Gispert: One of the things that many members of Congress ask us is when we go in there to appeal to them to support us is, "Okay, if I give you a dollar, what does that get me? What benefit to the country does a dollar going to emergency management do?"
We have to have specific examples like, "Im in a rural community in Idaho. If I dont get EMPG money, I dont have a staff. Were not open for business, so we cant plan for disasters." Thats a specific example of where federal money is doing benefit for not only the local community but for the country as a whole.
Martha Braddock: Ive had folks tell me that they had used their EMPG money for training on a particular event, and then 6 months later, they had an event. Because of that investment, they were able toand then tell me what they have done. I need something that paints the picture. I dont need just something"We use it for training, exercises, and planning." It could be, "Were using this money to plan for the next hurricane. These are our objectives and what were trying to accomplish."
Ive got to have something real. The way this will be used is, if a senator comes up with an amendment, and they can say, "These are some of the benefits to Montana. Why are you wanting to cut this? This is just as important as that other program."
Martha Braddock: Id like to turn to Larry to talk about building relationships with members of Congress or staff and working with state associations.
Larry Gispert: First of all, let me dispel the factI dont claim to be an expert at anything other than drinking Jack Daniels and eating lunch. For those of you who have met me, you realize Im very proficient at both of those. But otherwise, I have taken on, when I first ran for office for IAEM to get involved in the Congressional issues and stuff, and I said, "You know, Im a little intimidated by these people." We have a tendency to put these people on high.
Then I suddenly realized that we vote for them to go represent us. They work for us. I should not be intimidated by them. I should go meet them and tell them, "Hi, I am your boss, and heres what I need for you to do for me." I first started out locally, and I went to the local offices. Tampa is a major metropolitan area, so all of them have offices in Tampa, so I met with them.
What I learned from Martha, and more importantly from them is, the Congressman or Senator is not the important person, its the staffer. The staffer is the one that feeds the Congressman and the Senator those issues that they believe are important. Get to know the staffer.
The other thing we do is, we activate our EOC quite frequently down here for various storms and stuff. I put the staff and the Congressmen and the Senators on the SitRep list, and our distribution list, so they get all that information when were activated. They also get information about an upcoming Hazmat drill, and Ive occasionally called them and asked them if they would like to come up and show up and shake hands. If anybody knows a Congressman or Senator that doesnt like to shake hands, let me know what their name is.
As a matter of fact, when I showed up in Washington, they knew who I wasthey remembered me, and they know that Im speaking about whats important to Florida. The focal point always is, bring it back home. Bring it local. If you can, say, "This is good for Florida. This is good for Tampa." Or it could be wherever you live. That perks them up, because thats why theyre there. Theyre there to look out for the interest of their hometown and their state.
If you can hammer that home, and if you can build that relationshipI now have Congressmen and Senators who call me, as Martha has, and they say, "What do you think about this issue? What about this issue is good for Florida or bad for Florida?" Ive actually had them call me, which is very strange because before you spend an inordinate amount of time getting through the menagerie.
Dont be bashful. Dont be intimidated. Go meet them. "Hi, my name is Sammy and I represent XYZ and I want you to know that youre important to us, and heres what Im going to do to keep you informed about everything that is going on." Thats how I established a relationship.
Martha Braddock: Id like to give you a couple of examples. I dont know if theyre on the line or not, but Bob Bowman of Maine was our Government Affairs Chairhe had built a relationship with Senator Collins, who is now the ranking member on a committee extremely important to us, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which has authorization and jurisdiction over Stafford.
He keeps her staff informed of whatever the disasters are that are in Maine. Whenever theres an issue coming up, they send him an emailwhat do you think? How does this work for emergency managers?
Another example is North Carolina. The North Carolina State Association had meetings with Chairman Price. Chairman Price chairs the Appropriations Committee that deals with the DHS budget on the House side. He frequently mentions things that he has heard from the local emergency managers in North Carolina. He has been extremely supportive.
Larry Gispert: Some people say the power of one voice is not enough. For example, in Florida, we have 67 counties. We have 67 county emergency managers, and we have 300-400 staffers on EM. When we can say we are speaking for 400 emergency managers in the state of Florida, a Senator or a Congressman will step up. Politics are involved and some people dont like state associations, what have you. But if you participate in state associations and you unify your voice, it is very, very powerful.
When North Carolina goes in, or Alabama goes in, and they bring along their state association reps, I guarantee those Congressmen and Senators perk up and they say, "Im going to listen because these people are from back home. These people are going to talk to my voters, and if these people were going to tell voters that Im not interested in them, Im not going to get voted again."
Please consider being active and joining your state association and working through them. The power of numbers is phenomenal.
Martha Braddock: Amy, were ready for questions.
Amy Sebring: Thanks very much to both of you for that excellent introduction. Now, to proceed to our Q&A.
[Audience Questions & Answers]
Steve Davis: Martha: Are you also working on the HSGP grants such as SHSGP and UASI? Can you discuss your efforts and view for the future?
Martha Braddock: What Steve is referring to is the State Homeland Security Grant Program which we affectionately call SHSGP. Usually SHSGP and the Urban Area Security Initiative are not in the top 4 or 5 of our IAEM priorities. However, we are extremely supportive, just as we are of the Firefighter Grant Program and other programs.
Where we have engaged on SHSGP are on issues such asby the way, we do not get involved at all in formulas because we have members who are from large cities and rural areas and states and whatever, but for example, and this may be too far down in the weeds, the issue on whether there should be 5% administrative cost for SHSGP, and whether that should be 5% for the state and 5% for the locals, those are sort of the areas where we have engaged.
Larry Gispert: The other one thing we did, Martha, is we fought the cubby-holing and the mandatory "you must use 25% of this years grant to do one specific thing". We were somewhat successful in freeing that up from DHS so that they dont try to limit that. Before, every year it was going to be the soup du jour25% for planning, 25% for bombersso we got them to free that up, I hope.
Martha Braddock: Except for the legislative one, which of course, we havent touched, and thats for law enforcement. Theres a 25% requirement on law enforcement that is legislated.
Amy Sebring: For legislation, do you actually work with FEMA for language and legislation, or is that separate?
Martha Braddock: Members of the administration are not allowed to encourage grassroots lobbying of Congress. They would not be able to call us and say, "Can you help us get this piece of legislation passed?" or something along that line. They are much more likely that FEMA would be working very directly with the Congressional staff and working like theie legal counsel, working on refining language.
We work very closely with FEMA, but it would be a matter of having a discussion with key officials on why we think a particular piece of legislation works or doesnt work. FEMA would not routinely send us a piece of legislation for comment. However, we are now constantly getting policies for comment. We post those on our website, we give people an opportunity to comment, and we comment back to FEMA. We are very grateful for those opportunities to comment on policy.
Larry Gispert: Martha, we have helped Congressional staffers come up with appropriate language for proposed bills in the past. They really like seeking Marthas input because of her years of experience and background, but shes actually cracked a lot of language for them.
Martha Braddock: We are happy to do that, and we very much appreciate being asked. By the way, I see that Alan Schneider from the House Committee on Homeland Security is online. Welcome, Alan. His committee, along with several others, has been very kind enough to ask for our input on numerous legislative proposals. In fact, if you look at the Post Katrina Act, the actual definition of emergency management was written by Mike Selves, an IAEM person, Congressional staff.
Frequently we get to see, and this is your goal of course, that we get to review legislation and have input before its introduced. Sometimes its a matter of asking for an amendment, but if you can have input early on its very helpful. Most committee staff want the input from state and local emergency managers before they introduce it, because they are trying to write the best legislation possible, and we like being helpful.
The first definition for emergency management was basically anything that has to do with law enforcement response or whatever, I cant remember now, but Mike Selves wrote the one that is the official definition for emergency management that is in law.
Ken Rudnicki: Has there been any effort to set a minimum amount of EMPG states get to go to local governments? Some states pass on a large percentage and other states pass on very little.
Larry Gispert: The answer is yes. Weve not figured out the magic formula yet, but we are aware that there is a great disparity between some states and other states as far as the percentage of pass through. The EMPG was designed to fund both state and local EM programs, so its not like the state should pass 100% through, but we could argue forever whether it should be 80%, 75%, 60%, or what have you.
Thats why its very critical that you fill out these surveys and you tell us what you know that your states percentage is, and so we can get a handle on it. Then, we can possibly handle it via policywe prefer to handle it via policy versus going for legislation, because once you legislate it, its in concrete and its hard to change. Right, Martha?
Martha Braddock: Thats correct. We have some real stars in the past. Mississippi is one of the stars. I dont know in this particular budget climate, but in the past, theyve been passing through 70-80%. We have some states that pass through a lot less and use the overmatch by the locals to meet their state match.
Larry and I were meeting with one state association and found out that in that particular state, the locals hadnt had an increase in their EMPG in 10 years. If you look at how much EMPG has increased, thats really puzzling. That is an issue were beginning to hear more and more about from our members in terms of whats fair and whats equitable.
One of the times that I hear it is when Im asking folks to push for getting the signatures on the letter. Thats when I get, "I havent had an increase in 5 yearswhy should I keep pushing to get the funding increased?" And by the way, Ken, thank you very much for your efforts and strong pursuit to get the Virginia Senators on the letter last year.
Bob Goldhammer: Martha, you might want to check with state association presidents in the midwest to see where EMPG funds have been used to purchase tornado sirens. I think Parkersburg, IA had just installed a new one before they got hit with an F-5 year or so ago. There were still 11 deaths in the area from severe weather events.
Martha Braddock: Thank you.
J.R. Jones: Emergency managers are the best disaster consultants to the government. When support is needed, would it be appropriate to inform and enlist the support of the large corporations, especially in the hometown of the senator/representative. Particularly those who donate large amounts to the campaign?
Larry Gispert: Thats a tricky wicket. Theres nothing wrong with soliciting support from corporations in your local hometown for emergency management, but as far as going after ones that are contributors to the senator and stuff like that is a sticky wicket, I would say.
We have a tendency to be government-centric because most of us are government employees. If you remember 75-80% of the infrastructure is owned by the private sector, we need to be a lot more attuned to the private sector as far as their participation in the emergency management program. We have a lot of people who have heartburn about the fact that we cannot give any of the government funds to the private-for-profit sector, because they are for profit.
Everybody is strapped for budget money. For example, in this Haitian thing, I am really dumping on my 14 hospitals. Out of my 14 hospitals, at least 8 of them are for profit. Why should they pick up Haitian refugees if theyre not going to be paid for it, or theyre going to be paid minimal for it? So the question is: should we buffer that with government money?
Once again, corporate and private sector participation in emergency management is absolutely critical. Anything you can do to get them on the team, as far as Im concerned, do it.
Amy Sebring: Im thinking right there in Florida, not necessarily in your jurisdiction, youve got Disneyworld there in the Orlando area, and they seem to be fairly active in terms of emergency management.
Larry Gispert: They, in fact, actually have their own emergency management program with an emergency manager. Thats how much they believe in it.
Carole Johnson: Are you also working with Commission on Children in Disasters Long-Term Disaster Recovery initiative?
Presenter: We are very pleased that of the ten members of the Commission, the Speaker of the House appointed Bruce Lockwood, who is our IAEM Regional President for IAEM Region I. He has been a participant in that. Maybe Larry knows more, but we have done some training classes in coordination with Save the Children (which is also very involved in the Commission). Our folks have reviewed the report.
Theres a piece of legislation that was introduced this week that I sent out for comment that was by Karen Brown of Florida who was one of the early backers of the Commission with some specific requirements and changes to the Stafford act which we are reviewing at this time. I dont know if Ive answered their question, but yes, were very aware of their work.
Larry Gispert: IAEM is very, very active in that Commission and I think we signed a memorandum of understanding, if Im not mistaken, with that. Bruce is a very, very, very good representative on that, and so yes, we are tied in at the hip with the Children in Disasters.
Marty Shaub: Do either of you know how the majority of states involve or don't involve their colleges and universities in EMPG?
Martha Braddock: First of all, let me give an advertisement. We have within IAEM a very strong caucus of college and university emergency managers. If the questioner is a university or a college, I strongly advise you to get in touch with Brendan McCluskey at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey and participate with that group. They are working with probably 600 colleges and universities and emergency managers. These are practitioners, not academics.
I do not know of any, but I wouldnt necessarily know, but I am not aware of any state that is giving EMPG to colleges and universities. Some states give it only to counties. Some states also include cities and municipalities. Part of the issue is there really hasnt been enough funding. Larry, are you aware of any EMPG going to colleges and universities?
Larry Gispert: No, in fact, EMPG money only goes to states and counties. Im not even aware of any cities that get any EMPG money, which really frosts them.
Martha Braddock: Actually, there are some states that are giving small amounts to cities, but its very small.
Larry Gispert: Its all governmental, so I dont know of any universities or colleges that are getting EMPG money. There are universities and colleges that are heavily involved in state and local emergency management programs and may get some funding from another source, but not EMPG.
Martha Braddock: Of course, there are grant programs that colleges and universities are eligible for, such as HMGP (the Hazard and Mitigation Grant Program) or the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, and there are some grant programs with the Department of Education. Weve posted that information on our website.
Ken Rudnicki: Independent cities in VA get EMPG pass through.
Avagene Moore: Martha, I know that IAEM has a session at the annual conference for State Associations. How well organized are the state associations re: supporting these types of issues? How can we help in building that grassroots support?
Martha Braddock: We do have, as she said, a session for state associations. We call it for presidents, legislative chairs, or anyone else who really cares about their state association. These sessions are actually, usually very lively because we let them set the topics and we focus on things that the state associations want to talk about.
Its not all legislativeits how you have improved your conference, how you increased the amount of money you have available, what you are doing with training. Its actually a very interesting session. Some of the state associations are incredibly active.
There are some of the presidents that I can call and say, "There is a bill pending and we have a wavering member of Congress (youll never see this in writing, by the way) who really needs to know what the locals think", and theyll pick up the phone and make a call and say, "The 400 members or the representatives of all our counties are very concerned about the potential change in EMPG and would like for you to be of assistance."
There are some state associations that are just superb with legislative alerts. But back to Avagenes real questionhow do we get more state associations actively engaged? I would like to get comments from other people who can help us with that. We have offered mentoring. For example, Larry is a former President of the Florida Association. Eddie Hicks, our President Elect, is a former President of the Alabama Association.
We are willing to mentor, to help, to encourage.
Larry Gispert: More importantly, get over the local politics about the state associations. We have a bunch of state associations that have bickering going on. You need to join hands and talk with a unified voice to get things done. Not only at Congress, remember were talking about Washington, but also, for example in Florida, its Tallahassee, or whatever your capital may beyour state association needs to be up there with the state legislation telling them what to do and what not to do from an emergency management point of view, because the state legislators can pass laws that effect you just as simple as Washington can.
Martha Braddock: One of the things Id like to point out is, I dont know if theres anyone from Alabama online, but the Alabama State Association has been extremely effective. In fact, Alabama, several years ago, was able to get a bill through their state legislature to set a floor for the salary of county emergency managers. If they were full time, they would add the funding to bring it up to, I believe, $40,000.
One of the things I would like to see is much more sharing of state legislation. For example, one of the states has been trying, Im sorry to say, unsuccessfully, to get a requirement through their state legislature to require a safe room in manufactured home parks that are in the serious tornado belts. People need to be sharing their state legislative bills so that everyone doesnt start from the beginning. Do you want to tell them briefly how Florida got that tax done, Larry?
Larry Gispert: Well, its not a tax. Its a surcharge on your insurance. We had been trying for many, many years to get some local support of emergency management programs, not only counting on the EMPG. Back then, the EMPG was a very small amount, so it wasnt doing a lot of good for us. We had been lobbying the halls of Tallahassee to try to come up with some method of getting some money to pass on to the state and locals, and they came up with a great idea of putting a surcharge on homeowners insurance and business insurance.
It would not fly because the insurance industry would lobby heavily against it. We kept that legislation in our back pocket. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew occurred. Everybody was aghast and we had to change the world of emergency management. The real thing that really got it is, following Andrew which occurred in August of 1992, in the spring of 1993, we had the infamous March No-Name Storm came out of nowhere and drowned 8 people.
It just so happened that in March our state legislation was in session and they were gnashing their teeth"What can we do? What can we do?" Our state association just reached into their back pocket, threw down that legislation putting the surcharge on the insurance, and it passed. I dont think we could do it again today. We had it ready, and we struck when the iron was hot, and they passed it.
To the best of our knowledge, we are the only state in the union that has that capability. Many states have tried it, but ran into the same roadblocks with the insurance industry and everything else. Right now, if you have homeowners insurance, two dollars goes into a pot of money that is totaled up, and the state controls it, and they divvy it out by formula. As an example, each one of our 67 counties gets over $100,000 a year out of that pot of money to be used for enhancing emergency management. Timing, be ready!
Amy Sebring: Please tell us a little bit about working with partner organizations.
Martha Braddock: We work very closely with about 5 or 6 organizations and then were part of several other coalitions where we deal with 30 or 50 organizations. Some of our closest partners are NEMA (National Emergency Management Association), the state directorswe do a lot of meetings together, and its helpful in the meetings when folks know that the state and local emergency managers are in agreement.
For example, on the EMPG letter, we will work with Senator Roberts staff on what is the number that we want to ask for, for EMPG this year. Were going to have to wait and see what the budget is, but we need to be working on the same number. The National Association of Counties, who are the bosses of many of our folkssometimes when they are asked to have a witness, its more appropriate to be us. They have one of our members as their witness, and represent both. They co-sign a lot of the letters that we send. Theyve been strongly supportive on the EMPGthey have policy on it.
The subcommittee within their Public Safety Committee, which deals with emergency management, is chaired by Nick Crossley, the Emergency Manager from Johnson County, Kansas. We work closely with the National League of Cities, the National Governors Association, the Association of State Floodplain Managers, Conference of Mayors, and with the Fire Association Groups.
Were involved with something called the Stafford Act Coalition, which is probably a group of 30, and a much wider group on all of the amendments that have to do with the Stafford Act. This group also includes the American Public Works Association, the National Wildlife Federation, and insurance groups, and a much larger group.
We work very closely and coordinate with our partners. The more of us that can speak with the same voice, the better.
Amy Sebring: Larry, do you find this is effective at the state level as well?
Larry Gispert: She forgot to mention the Homeland Security Consortium. Thats about 50 very important agencies.
Unified voices are the key. One little voice in the wilderness is often not listened to, but when that voice joins with hundreds of voices and they say the same message, it is amazing what happens. I want to take the opportunity to apologize for my sick sense of humor, but I only have 369 days left. I had to get that in, because Im getting ready to retire.
It is very important that you speak with a unified voice. You need to find a group that thinks like you and speaks like you and add your voice to it. The key to this is, youre from hometown, youre from back home, and youre telling them what their voters want. That is absolutely critical to the elected officials.
None of our elected officials go up there to do a bad job. They want to do a good job. But they were elected to represent the people back home and they need to know what the people back home want. If you dont tell them what you need, theyre not going to guess it. Somebody else will tell them something different and youve got a 50/50 chance of what that other person told that person is not what you really need. Speak to these people. Speak to them often. Let them know that you care.
Amy Sebring: On that excellent note that will be time to wrap for today. Thanks very much to you both for an excellent job, and taking the time to share this information with us. We wish you continued success in your future efforts. Larry, good luck with the Haitians.
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