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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The Role of Interstate Coordination in MSCC

Legal and political realities dictate that each State bears ultimate responsibility for the safety and welfare of its citizens. In times of crisis, however, it may be necessary for States to share information and resources with one another to support a coordinated response. The need for interstate coordination and mutual aid assistance is driven by several factors:

  • Few States, if any, possess the full range of resources necessary to respond to all types of emergencies (natural or man-made), or the capability to get resources to areas of greatest need.
  • Population growth near State borders has significantly increased the potential for hazard impacts to affect a population that extends across State boundaries.
  • An increasingly mobile workforce in the United States raises the probability that the onset of certain delayed hazards (e.g., biological, chemical, or radiological agents) may actually manifest more prominently in victims who live outside the area of immediate impact.
  • Omnipresent media coverage easily spotlights discrepancies in the response actions of affected jurisdictions or States. Reports of such discrepancies may erode public confidence and cause undue anxiety in the population.

The Implications of Interstate Incident Strategy Conflict:

A stark example of the problems with conflicting interstate response strategies was evident in the National Capital Area when West Nile Virus arrived in the summer of 2000. Montgomery County, Maryland, elected to spray for mosquitoes when the virus was detected in a mosquito pool on the border with the District of Columbia. In contrast, the District followed expert advice and elected not to spray. The conflicting policies and their rationale were not explained to the public until a media controversy erupted, causing significant public unrest that consumed public officials' time and attention.

Interstate coordination is an effective way to promote the optimal distribution of available medical and public health resources in support of overall MSCC. It enables affected States to share information, including incident goals (known as "control objectives" in NIMS) and operational period objectives defined by incident command, so that a consistent response strategy can be implemented across State borders.

To be effective, interstate coordination must entail the following:

  • Open and reciprocal information exchange regarding incident and response parameters
  • The ability to compare and discuss incident action plans (IAPs) for individual States, as they are developed
  • An understanding that creating consistency among State IAPs and proactively addressing apparent interstate discrepancies will enhance the overall response system
  • Effectively using the coordination platform to provide assistance, such as cross-border mutual aid.

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  • This page last reviewed: February 14, 2012