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Published:March 26th, 2007 05:01 EST
FEMA's Good Neighbor Approach Aids in Cross-Border Response

FEMA's Good Neighbor Approach Aids in Cross-Border Response

By SOP newswire

Recently, Sonja Nieuwejaar from FEMA’s Office of International Affairs spoke to the Good Neighbor Environmental Board, an independent federal committee that advises the president and congress on environmental and infrastructure issues along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Board participants discussed a variety of local and national issues during the day-long conference. FEMA’s Office of International Affairs addressed cross-border emergency management initiatives at the local, state and national levels. Nieuwejaar cited an August 2006 dam safety incident in the city of Juarez, Mexico, which could have caused flooding in downtown El Paso, Texas. “The Montada Dam incident is a good example of the importance of cross-border relationships.” Nieuwejaar added, “In this instance, the established relationships between El Paso and Juarez city authorities allowed for effective communication and notification. The City of Juarez and the International Boundaries Water Commission also invited the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to be part of a bi-national team and evaluate the threat. To assist with the overall pumping efforts, the City of El Paso also sent two pumping units to Juarez.” Nieuwejaar also spoke to the scope of international assistance accepted by the U.S. government during Hurricane Katrina. To date, over 150 countries and international organizations have offered various forms of aid to combat that disaster. In addition, Nieuwejaar spoke to the resulting policies and procedures created for accepting international assistance in future domestic disasters. Over the past year, FEMA, the Department of State, and United States Agency for International Development developed a concept of operations called the International Assistance System to quickly review, accept and reject, manage and distribute donations.

Another important aspect of cross-border operations is the common challenges that confront bi-national initiatives to include coordination, legal, regulatory, operational, logistical and financial issues. According to Nieuwejaar, conducting bi-national exercises, maintaining solid lines of communication between cross-border emergency management agencies and sharing cross-border best practices are essential tools to help strengthen cross-border emergency management activities and plans.

For further information on cross-border emergency management activities, please contact FEMA’s Office of International Affairs at 202-646-3444.