News Column

Federal Assistance OK'd for N.M. Disasters

May 22, 2013

Streamlined military assistance to New Mexico during wildfires and other major disasters will be available from the U.S. Department of Defense through a new agreement between the state and D.O.D.

"This agreement has the potential to save lives," Gov. Susana Martinez said last week in signing the agreement with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. "Specially trained senior officers of the New Mexico National Guard will now have the ability to simultaneously dispatch and command military units of various state and federal units on the scene of a disaster. This would only be used in cases of extreme disasters that stretch beyond our in-state resources, but will help improve our emergency response and better protect New Mexicans at a time when they need it most."

The agreement would allow specially trained officers in the New Mexico National Guard to hold dual command roles over both National Guard personnel and federal active duty military units during the response to a disaster.

In the agreement, Hagel and Martinez pointed out that a dual response must be unified, coordinate and effective.

"Someone who has just lost their house or a loved one during a tragedy doesn't care where the help comes from, just that it arrives," Martinez said.

New Mexico has four trained officers who could serve as dual-status commanders. On the scene of an emergency, dual status commanders will report through military channels to both the governor and D.O.D. secretary, or their

designated representatives.

"New Mexico State Forestry is excited about this new agreement," said State Forester Tony Delfin. "During wildfire situations where resources are stretched thin, often additional assistance is needed from the military. This agreement will improve our ability to respond effectively and quickly."

Delfin said his agency with a role of wildland firefighting looked forward to working with the National Guard, New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and any U.S. Military branches to see that fire responders and impacted communities get needed help.

The process would allow New Mexico to call on D.O.D. resources when an event, or multiple situations, would overwhelm state response capabilities. The support could include aviation services, specialized medical services, or significant transportation or communications needs. In the event of a wildfire, airborne fire suppression could come from a regional National Guard unit such as from other states in the southwest, the Air Force, Air Reserve or Air National Guard aircraft that have specialized firefighting equipment.

Martinez said the accord will bring enhanced defense and protection of lives during disasters.

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(c)2013 Ruidoso News (Ruidoso, N.M.)

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Source: Copyright Ruidoso News (NM) 2013


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