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  • Join NEMA
  • 2018 NEMA Annual Conference
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  • About NEMA
  • Member Benefits
  • Join NEMA

NEMA, the professional association of emergency management directors from all 50 states, eight territories, and the District of Columbia, is the source of information, support, and expertise for people like you - emergency management professionals at all levels of government and the private sector who prepare for, mitigate, respond to, recover from, and provide products and services for all emergencies, disasters, and threats to the nation’s security.

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Peer Networking
NEMA offers its members numerous opportunities to share and discuss best practices and partner on common issues.

Educational Opportunities
Through workshops, publications, and online tools, NEMA offers high-quality learning opportunities to its membership.

Committee Engagement
NEMA has committees for every aspect of emergency management. State members make up the voting bodies of each committee, with one non-voting seat reserved for a liaison from the private sector. Private sector liaisons are appointed by the Private Sector committee chair. Learn more about NEMA committees.

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NEMA membership is open to everyone who has a role in emergency management.  Membership benefits include: 

  • Access to Research and Policy Initatives
  • Legislative Activities & Support
  • Discounted Fees for Products & Services
  • Access to Member-Only Website Areas
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Peer Networking
  • Committee Access
Click "Become a Member" to learn how easy it is to join NEMA!

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  • NEMA's Committees focus on specific emergency managment and homeland security issues
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  • NEMA collects and analyzes data on emergency management not availble anywhere else
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  • NEMA provides a variety of training and educational opportunities to both members and non-members
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  • NEMA's DC Office provides a critical link to Congress and other stakeholders in emergency management
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  • A working document that lays out the goals and objectives for the next five years 
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  • NEMA’s two national conferences provide a forum to discuss national and regional emergency management strategies
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Picture provided by Cecil Whaley
Cecil Whaley, Assistant Director, Bureau of Preparedness, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, reflects on public service through emergency management, the birth of EMAC, football, leadership, and admits the lessons from running a retail business.

Describe what NEMA means to you and your daily work.
Current legislative news on programs and policy being formed in Washington D.C. are very important to how our State formulates our priorities and our future path, and that news comes from NEMA. It is news that you can trust and that you know is valid. Reporting on FEMA policy directions and guidance is a key product which NEMA can be trusted to convey to our decision-making process. It is invaluable.

The defining role of emergency management can at times expand to situations that are not your normal emergency management function. Would you like to share any out of the ordinary experiences that left you in wonder of how EM got involved? When I began working in emergency management I would never have dreamed that traveling to almost every state in America would become part of my learning experience. Working earthquakes in California; hurricanes in Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina; urban/wildlife interfaces in Kentucky, Georgia, Florida and North Carolina; even ice storms in Kentucky and Georgia became commonplace. But, cyber attacks, hazardous materials, civil disturbances, inaugurations and solar eclipses were unexpected missions. Another experience of the unexpected was helping to mobilize supplemental Hispanic-speaking Disaster Service Center (DRC) managers after Northridge.

The past Fourth of July holiday reminds me of one mission, in particular, assisting Florida. We transported dozens of fire-fighting vehicles and personnel to Daytona Beach to support Florida in fighting out-of-control wildfires overnight on a July 4th holiday. We bunked under the speedway grandstands and feast on the catered VIP food provided by the NASCAR leadership after they had to cancel the Firecracker 400 race - brings back vivid memories of the success of the EMAC system.

Speaking of EMAC. Through your participation in its evolution, how has EMAC advanced emergency management, or made it better? EMAC has become a major cornerstone of the entire emergency response system in the United States. When I first met with Leon Shaifer, Eric Tolbert, Mike Sherberger, Hoot Gibson and others in a conference room in the Georgia Capitol Building to integrate the Southeast Regional Emergency Management Assistance Compact into the core EMAC draft, we had no idea how it would change the direction of FEMA and NEMA. But we had hope. Many others have supplied the bricks and details. Before EMAC, there was confusion and frustration, now there is a path and guidance to quick, effective support to States faced with crisis. This part of government does work for the citizens!

With your vast, going on 30-years, experience within emergency management what are the changes to the industry that stand out the most to you? The most important change has been the establishment and growth of the mitigation program by FEMA. The funding of state and local projects through pre and post disaster mitigation streams has given emergency management a tool which can bring imaginative ideas and concepts to bear upon local programs. Neighborhoods have been transformed and been made resilient through these projects. In addition, FEMA's commitment to building a recovery program within its infrastructure has the prospect of fundamentally altering the role of emergency management in bringing disaster survivors lives back to pre-disaster levels.

You had the opportunity to work with some of the most dynamic leaders within emergency management (Lacy Suiter, James Lee Witt, Joe Myers), what did you learn from those opportunities that have carried through your career today? I learned that growth as a manager and leader is fundamentally centered on your ability to change and adapt quickly. That is the most important lesson passed to me by these seminal leaders. Lacy was a great motivator and led by allowing those surrounding him the opportunity to challenge the normal. James Lee Witt had an unique ability to emphatically connect to those around him who had suffered great loss. He was a great judge of character. Joe Myers was a hands-on, can-do state director whose dynamic personality gave people confidence in response during times of stress. 

You lived in 23 countries before you attended high school - that's more countries than some see in a lifetime. Do you mind to explain? I come from a 'military brat' background. My father was an Air Force pilot in WWII, Korea and the Vietnam War. With 12,000 flight hours in 30 years he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and the Joint Forces Distinguished Service Medal. We traveled to or were stationed in 23 countries before I began high school in Tennessee. I attended five different schools in one year during that period. This taught me valuable lessons about how to adjust and cope with unexpected situations much like an emergency manager must face every day. Also, I learned how to work successfully with many different types of people.

Tradition seems to play a major role in your experiences, is that true? The opportunity to help others through public service was always ingrained in my upbringing. My grandfathers both served in World War I, returned home to become part of the American dream by helping to build a family-owned newspaper network and maintaining a railroad system in the Midwest. My father and mother idolized these role-models and passed that respect and discipline along to me. This strength provided by strong family guidance molded me by observing the differences in people and societies around the world. This background provided me a path to a career in assisting people through emergency management.

What motivated you to go from teaching American history, political science, economics and coaching high school football to a state government job? I realized that by working through state government I would have the ability to reach out and help hundreds or thousands of people at a time instead of just the handful who were in my classrooms or my ball-fields. The opportunity was just too fascinating to by-pass. I have never regretted that decision.

Taking a small break from the 'government job,' you decided to go into the restaurant/retail business. What did you learn from that experience that applies to emergency management? I learned a lot about managing personnel and how to treat customers. Owning a high-volume liquor store and market operation taught me self-control and focused direction. Hard work and long hours taught me perspective in time-management and making sure family-time was safeguarded.

Football season will be here before you know it! Where did you play football? Where did your son play football? My son played tight end and offensive tackle at Maryville College in east Tennessee near Knoxville. I was a lowly walk-on punching bag at Indiana University.

What do you like to do to 'de-stress' or for fun? Read, travel, spend time with family, work in my yard, and play golf.

Looking for Something? 

Emergency Management Assistance Compact

NEMA administers the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a nationally adopted mutual aid agreement between states.  Governance of EMAC is through NEMA's membership, the Directors of the State Emergency Management Agencies.  Learn more about EMAC by watching this short video. 

Visit the EMAC website to learn more.

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