Last updated January 28, 2019
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In this document, we describe the history of Emergency Management and the Emergency Management Association of Tennessee.  It encompasses a narrative type description of past, present, and planned activities.

John Riley, Chairman of the Historical Committee

History of Emergency Management and 
the Emergency Management Association of Tennessee

Narrative description of past, present, and planned activities. 
Last Update: January 2019 (please delete earlier dated copies) 

1951 - FCDA
1958 - TCDA
1979 - FEMA
1985 - EMAT

The National Security Act of 1947 created the National Security Resources Board (NSRB) to "advise the president on mobilization coordination of the United States" during times of war. The NSRB focused on the buildup of industrial capabilities and the stockpiling of "critical" national security materiel. NSRB also laid the groundwork for the development of CONELRAD, the emergency warning system predecessor to the Emergency Broadcast System (today, it is the Emergency Alert System).

On September 30, 1950, Congress passed the Federal Disaster Relief Act, which was designed primarily to allow the federal government to provide limited assistance to the states during times of disaster. This function was assigned to the Executive Office of the President (EOP).

On December 1, 1950, President Harry Truman created the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA) in an executive order [EO 10186] within what was called the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) attached to the Executive Office of the President. OEM's purpose had previously been largely to provide the President with a mechanism to monitor emergencies and disasters that affected the United States and the office offered no direct assistance to state or local governments. Congress recognized this problem and passed the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950 [64 Stat. 1245].

In another executive order (EO 10193) on December 16, 1950, the federal Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM) was created to coordinate federal mobilization activities, principally for wartime activities. Shortly after, another agency, the Defense Production Administration (DPA) was created by EO 10200, January 3, 1950, to exercise general control of the defense production program.

On January 12, 1951, the FCDA became an independent agency of the federal government, and absorbed the functions of what had been called the National Security Resources Board (NSRB).

ODM inherited disaster relief coordination responsibilities in another executive order [EO 10427] on January 6, 1953.

As Cecil Whaley, Director of Plans, TEMA, said, “Confused? No doubt. So was just about everyone else at all levels of government during this period. “The distinction between wartime-type civil defense activities and natural disaster relief activities and their attendant philosophies created friction in many different ways even into the 1980s. Civil defense workers were concerned with the protection of the civilian population from the effects of a hostile attack against the country, had "national security" status, and dealt with critical production issues, etc. CD workers saw disaster relief as an unrelated, benign task best left to others.

In their original incarnation, civil defense programs sought to develop sheltering capabilities to house people in attacked cities. Civil defense planners, however, were also developing mass evacuation plans for supposed targets of the United Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Planners naturally assumed that major cities, defense production facilities, major power plants, etc., would be targeted by the Russians in their attempt to take over the continental U. S., and sought to develop elaborate plans for the evacuation of populations from the threatened areas. Detailed population and traffic routing studies were undertaken at all levels, including Tennessee, in an effort to determine how long it would take to evacuate a city such as Memphis, for example. The entire population of the city of Memphis was to be relocated among some 30 counties in western Tennessee, eastern Arkansas, southeastern Missouri, and northern Mississippi.

There were three main considerations that led planners to believe this would have been a viable option at the time:

1. The massive development and suburbanization of the country's cities had yet to begin in earnest, so there were few massive neighborhoods or population points in any given area outside the main body of the main city,

2. It was generally assumed that there would be a "buildup" of tensions between the United States and Russia (or any other country that might wish to launch an attack). Planners frequently spoke of this buildup in terms of weeks or several days.

3. In a worst-case scenario (i.e., no-notice attack), it would take at least 6 hours for a Russian bomber to reach the radars established by the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) along the northern portion of the country. There were no missiles (at that time) with the capability of reaching the U. S.

All of these combined to suggest to evacuation planners that mass evacuations of large cities could be undertaken successfully in the event of a war with Russia. A great many people at all levels of government believed that such evacuations were not possible, and Congress refused to provide any substantial funding for any civil defense program, let alone funds needed for major relocation studies. A good deal of the funding went toward the development of sheltering programs, including the study of existing buildings for use as shelters, and the development of concepts and guidance for the building of underground shelters at individual homes.

In 1953, under Reorganization Plan #3 (June 12), functions of the former NSRB were removed from FCDA, and along with programs of the existing ODM, FPA, and other disaster and emergency relief responsibilities of the EOP, were consolidated into a new Office of Defense Mobilization, housed within the Executive Office of the President. The FCDA would concentrate solely on preparing the civilian population for a nuclear attack, while the new ODM would assume all responsibilities related to domestic emergency preparedness and development of the nation's civilian capability to ramp up and go to war. The CONELRAD program was transferred to a newly created office called the Assistant Director of Telecommunications, who was to be a part of the new ODM.

During the 1953-1958 period, there continued to be arguments over whether evacuation or sheltering was to be the nation's policy regarding response to a nuclear attack. There was vigorous debate in Congress, in the Executive Branch, and even among individuals charged with the responsibility of managing the civil defense and ODM programs. The public had largely grown tired of civil defense anyway, however, due to the political face put on by the Eisenhower Administration about maintaining a peaceful coexistence with the Russians. That would soon change, however. The development of intercontinental ballistic missile capability and the subsequent launch of the Sputnik satellite, along with the Soviet Union's explosion of a hydrogen bomb once again fueled fears of the potential for a Russian attack on the United States. This time, however, the evacuation planners had to confront the fact that a Soviet missile could reach the U. S. in a few minutes, and that we may not have "several hours" to carry out an evacuation.

In 1958, the major civil defense and emergency preparedness programs at the federal level were reorganized. Under Reorganization Plan #1 [July 1, 1958], the FCDA and the ODM were consolidated into a single agency, the Office of Defense and Civilian Mobilization (ODCM), which was to be housed in the Executive Office of the President. It was during this period that the Federal Civil Defense Act was amended to allow the federal government to provide funding for civil emergency preparedness. The federal government would provide 50/50 matching funds to personnel and administration costs for agencies engaged in civil defense preparedness. The concept of a joint federal-state-local responsibility for civil defense and attack preparedness was also articulated in guidance distributed by the new ODCM.

Within Tennessee, the newly created Civil Defense Agency (1958) was hard at work in its headquarters office, located in Room 315 of the Cordell Hull Building. Based on direction and guidance from the FCDA, the Tennessee Civil Defense Agency (TCDA) set out to develop massive evacuation plans for the major population centers in the state, Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Tri-Cities, and Alkor (Knoxville-Alcoa). The Governor adopted the policy that TCDA should be the central coordination point for all civil defense actions following an attack, and gave TCDA the authority to coordinate all the other state agencies' activities during such periods.

The culmination of this effort led to the publishing in 1958 of the state's first major planning document related to civil defense. Called the Tennessee Operational Survivability Plan, the 10-volume document laid out how the state would respond to a nuclear attack in excruciating detail. The plan called for each of the population centers to be designated a Civil Defense Operational Area (CDOA), each with its own command structure. The Governor and the Civil Defense staff were to be relocated to a facility outside of Tullahoma, Tennessee, and an alternate state Capitol was to be established at the old Ovoca Children's School in the same general area. The plan describes vehicle loads for anticipated evacuation routes, contains letters of coordination for the use of counties in adjoining states, and even details specific guidance on how resources were to be allocated to individual counties through the CDOA organizational structure.

Despite all of these developments, the public at large had begun to grow weary of the "duck and cover" film clips, and the discussions about civil defense at local community group meetings. There was growing realization that an evacuation of major cities in the shadow of a nuclear attack was not feasible, so the primary emphasis continued to be centered on fallout shelters.

In 1961, however, President John F. Kennedy, sensing that the overwhelming majority of state and local governments were doing little if anything to develop a sheltering capability, decided to make civil defense preparedness once again a central issue. Kennedy once again separated out "civil defense" functions and other emergency preparedness functions into two agencies. Executive Order 10952 moved the CD functions into and Office of Civil Defense (OCD) within the Department of Defense, and assigned to the Secretary of Defense. A full-fledged nationwide shelter program, funded by the federal government was developed, resulting in engineering studies of existing structures, the acquisition and deployment of shelter stockpiles (i.e., the crackers and other goods one could find in the basements of these so-designated facilities). This moved "civilian" defense into the military arena, but it was widely believed that the Defense Department had the resources to undertake such a massive logistics program associated with the development of the sheltering program.

What remained of the emergency preparedness programs was transferred to a newly created Office of Emergency Planning (OEP), which became responsible for all civilian emergency preparedness activities, including resource utilization, disaster relief, economic stabilization, post-attack rehabilitation, and continuity of government functions. Still we have the separation of CD and other emergency functions at the federal level. In 1968, this office was renamed the Office of Emergency Preparedness.

The Cuban Missile Crisis in late 1962 woke everyone up to the renewed possibility of a nuclear attack upon the United States. This incident served to bolster the Defense Department's budget requests for accelerated shelter program development, and this was reflected somewhat in the next budget. Once again, however, the following years would see a dearth of funding for such programs, especially given that with the removal of missiles from Cuba, and the newly developing war in Vietnam, there was once again little interest in the prospect of nuclear attack.

In August of 1966, the Tennessee Civil Defense Agency promulgated the Tennessee Plan for the Management of Resources. This plan was designed to formalize the manner in which critical resources would be managed by the federal, state, and local government following a nuclear attack. In 1964, the federal OCD and OEP offices agreed to the framework for the management of the nation's critical resources following an attack - delegating the management of resources in the aftermath of such an attack. TCDA undertook an extensive review of the state's electrical and telecommunications assets, fuel supplies, food, industrial production assets, etc., and determined how they would be managed following a massive nuclear attack on the U.S., in conjunction with the federal management of nationwide resources. Governor Frank G. Clement signed an Executive Order [#28] on June 23, 1966, designating the Director of Civil Defense as the officer in charge of such coordination and planning efforts within Tennessee, and directed all other state agencies to coordinate their activities with the CD Director. Over the next several years, agency planners would set out developing lists of "critical facilities" that needed to be considered during planning for nuclear attacks and other emergencies that might involve resource shortages. Agency officials also coordinated the massive amounts of data related to the engineering studies and designation of shelters within Tennessee.

In 1967, the TCDA moved into its new emergency operations center, located at the Clement-Nunally Armory in south Nashville. This facility, housed on what is now called Houston Barracks, is the headquarters of the Tennessee Military Department, and the existing successor agency to TCDA, TEMA, still operates from there today in totally renovated facilities.

In the early 1970s, under intense pressure from Governors of the states and others who believed that the concept of separated civil defense and emergency preparedness functions was outdated, the federal level organizations moved toward allowing the dual-use of civil defense funds and equipment to be utilized for natural disaster preparedness. In 1971, the federal Office of Civil Defense was renamed to the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (DCPA), but retained its basic functions, and the OEP remained intact within the Executive Office of the President. DCPA continued to provide 50-50 matching funds for the "dual-use" concept of civil defense/emergency preparedness at the state and local level. The only visible change at DCPA was that their personnel would now assist state and local governments in developing plans for natural disaster as well as nuclear attacks. Despite the relatively peaceful relationship between the Soviet Union and the U.S., the decision was made to maintain a modest civilian defense program.

The federal Reorganization Plan #1, April 20, 1970 transferred the responsibility for the Office for the Control of Electromagnetic Radiation (CONELRAD) system to the Office of Telecommunications Policy (OTP) within the EOP. CONELRAD was renamed the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS). OTP was later absorbed into the Office of Science and Technology Policy, also within the EOP (1978).

On July 1, 1973, federal Reorganization Plan # 2 took another step backward. It initiated a re-delegation of a wide variety of disaster and emergency preparedness activities amongst a tremendous number of disparate federal agencies. All coordination of federal agency response to major disasters was to be housed at the General Services Administration, specifically in the Federal Preparedness Agency (FPA), and GSA would also create several other internal divisions for other functions related to emergency preparedness. All coordination of federal disaster relief activities was transferred to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), where it was housed in the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration. HUD also housed the Federal Insurance Administration (FIA), which had been created in 1968 to provide flood, riot and crime insurance (in the wake of the race riots of the late 1960s). The Defense Department maintained the DCPA in its original form, largely unchanged by the reorganization plan.

The Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974 also created two additional emergency preparedness organizations within the Department of Commerce. The National Fire Prevention and Control Administration (NFPCA) was to assist states and localities in the development of fire prevention and control programs, while the National Academy of Fire Prevention and Control (NAFPC) was to develop model training programs for fire service personnel. NFPCA later became the United States Fire Administration in 1978 (still housed in DOC), and the NAFPC and would become the National Fire Academy in that same year.

The 1970s saw a dramatic rise in the number of emergencies and disasters that affected the country's states and localities. The increasing presence of hazardous materials in local communities and in the transportation corridors led to serious hazmat incidents. Chief among them were the bromine release in Rockwood, TN, in 1977 and the liquid propane gas (LPG) explosion in Waverly, Tennessee, in February of 1978 which tragically killed 16 first responders and citizens immediately and injured many others. The years 1973-1975 saw a dramatic increase in severe weather damages, especially in 1974, where hundreds of people were killed in a series of violent tornado outbreaks across the Midwest.

Due to the Waverly disaster Governor Blanton had issued an executive order in 1975 designating the Tennessee Office of Civil Defense as the lead agency for coordinating the state's response to all disasters and emergencies that affected the state or its citizens. The agency was designated as the only agency allowed to train and validates hazardous materials technicians, specialists, and the teams they formed.

Sadly, the 1978 explosion at Waverly also represents the only time that a TCDA/TEMA employee has been killed in the line of duty. Mr. Mark Belyew, a communications technician was providing radio communications coordination at a command post and was at the site at the time of the LPG tank explosion in that city . The Planning and Communication Annex building on Houston Barracks is named in his honor. The agency's current director, John White, was critically injured in that explosion. The agency had already developed a draft hazardous materials response plan prior to Waverly in response to a bromine leak in Rockwood, but had not yet enacted it so its enactment was immediate. The Planning and Communication Annex building on Houston Barracks is named in Mark Belyew’s honor.

Blanton’ s Executive Order 18 also required that each state agency designate an Emergency Services Coordinator (ESC) and an alternate to serve as liaison to the TCDA during disasters and emergencies. Tennessee was the first state to formalize this process, and it allowed TCDA to reach into an agency to find someone who could assist a local community without having to call dozens of people in perhaps several different counties before they could arrange for help. TCDA could now contact this one person, explain to them what was needed, and that one person had the onus and the authority to find someone in his organization that could assist the local community with whatever it needed. The ESC concept continues to this day in Tennessee.

Major flooding events affected Tennessee in 1977, there were a couple of major dam failures, and the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant experienced a major malfunction. For a brief period, the federal government allowed the states to treat natural disaster preparedness as their primary role with respect to the use of federal civil defense funds. This changed again, however, following the ascendancy of Vice-President Gerald Ford to the Presidency, and once again, states were required to treat planning for a nuclear attack as their primary function.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and consolidated several dozen, disparate emergency preparedness and civil defense functions into a single entity. Although that sounds efficient, many of these organizations continued to function as their own organization within the new agency, and for many years the "civil defense" and "national security" planners were distinct from those that assisted state and local governments in preparing for and responding to disasters. FEMA and its programs would become the basis for state and local emergency preparedness and civil defense programs for the next 20 years.

Like most other states during the early and mid-1970s, the state of Tennessee also came to the realization that preparation for natural and now technological disasters should take priority over population relocations and sheltering surveys. Several of those disasters that attracted the attention of the nation occurred in Tennessee.

The TCDA did not wait until told that they could use funds for other purposes. In 1978, following the floods of 1977 and with the lingering after-effects of the tornado outbreak of 1974 and the Waverly explosion in 1978, the state developed its first "disaster response" document. With the release of the Tennessee Disaster Assistance Plan in 1978, the state now had a formalized process for responding to and recovering from disasters that affected the state. The plan had been under development for almost two years, had been funded by a $250,000 grant from the FDAA (HUD), and was signed by Governor Ray Blanton in June of 1978.

It was also during the late 1970s that TCDA found itself involved in several unique events. Among them was the funeral of Elvis Presley in Memphis in August of 1977. Presley had died unexpectedly, and there was a tremendous crowd presence that began to swell immediately following the announcement of his death. In the days that followed, more and more people surrounded his Graceland Mansion and clogged the roads in the area. With the advent of the funeral, Memphis officials feared that they would not be able to effectively control the traffic and the crowds, and asked for assistance from several state agencies, including the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Tennessee Department of Transportation, and the Tennessee National Guard. The State Emergency Operations Center was activated and coordinates the provision of almost 1000 state personnel to assist the Memphis authorities.

The call-up of the National Guard in the 1978 police and fire strikes in Memphis and later in Nashville with the Nashville Prison Strike led to the activation of the state EOC. The SEOC coordinated the provision of troops, law enforcement personnel, and supplies to the city administration in both events.

With the creation of FEMA in 1979, the federal government consolidated several dozen emergency-related programs spread across a multitude of departments into a single entity. Its function was supposed to be the coordination of federal response to disasters and the provision of planning and programmatic assistance to state and local governments in the development of mechanisms to protect the civilian population from all threats. The consolidation of these programs, however, was only cosmetic in nature. Those personnel who had been associated with national security issues remained compartmented, and FEMA directors through the first Bush administration steered the agency toward "black" and "secret" national security programs such as continuity of government, relocation of executive branch personnel, etc. Response to civilian disasters and assistance to state and local governments took a back seat to these programs.

Following the Three Mile Island event in March, 1979, the nation's attention had been focused on preparedness for emergencies at nuclear plants. The implementation of NUREG 0654 by FEMA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission required states to prepare detailed emergency plans for events the nation's nuclear facilities. Although the surge nationally did not last long, Tennessee was the first state to comply with the publishing of the Multi-Jurisdictional Radiological Emergency Response Plan for the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant (MJERP). The Sequoyah Nuclear Plant was operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and in order to acquire its license to operate, TVA had to work with the state and local governments to develop an off-site response capability that protected populations and farmland from radiological contamination. Every year since, the agency and a wide array of state and local officials and volunteers have undertaken a major exercise to test the plan's effectiveness.

Those within FEMA's civilian programs began to formulate a concept known as "Comprehensive Emergency Management" or CEM. CEM referred to the responsibility for managing response to all types of disasters and emergencies through the coordination of multiple agencies or entities. One of the concepts of CEM was the division of emergency activity into four "phases", specifically mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. These phases could be consistently applied across any type of disaster, whether it was man-made, natural, or even attack-related. The Integrated Emergency Management System (IEMS) was also developed during this period. IEMS emphasized the application of "all-hazard" planning for responding to disasters, and FEMA began to allow state and local agencies to focus primarily on natural and technological disasters that affected their communities, and allowed them to relegate nuclear attack planning to the back burner.

It had not been long since the Federal Emergency Management Agency had reported that the House and Senate Conferees had agreed on the paltry sum of $152.3 million for civil defense in the Department of Defense Authorization Act of 1983. The joint committee was even considering reverting FEMA to the name “civil defense”, proposing to change the name to the Federal Civil Disaster Agency. FEMA was also facing a reduction of federal funding in the hard economic times. Robert Morris, the acting director, indicated his anxiety to get input from local emergency management officials on problems and issues to build FEMA support (Civil Defense Bulletin, Series 82-8/23).

Then Bhopal happened on December 3, 1984. The “new” threat raised as a skull and crossbones from the Union Carbide plant in the heart of India killing 1,700 Indians immediately and a disputed number between 4,000 and 20,000 over the next few weeks (TEMA HAZMAT Ops Guide, p. 1). The release was methyl isocyonate (MIC), a deadly chemical used in insecticides such as Sevin and Temik. The Bhopal disaster was especially traumatic in Tennessee since the 1978 Waverly disaster was still recent in the minds of Tennesseans and had shaken the state severely (TEMA HAZMAT Ops Guide, p. 1). The issues were recognized in Tennessee as similar due to implications that no guidelines were in place to deal with chemical releases just as there had been few guidelines to deal with the propane threat.

At the national level in the United States, the Bhopal, India incident underwrote the empowerment of the Environmental Protection Agency and pushed it to improve the state of preparedness for accidents of this nature. The nation focused on what kinds of chemicals were being stored in local communities. As a result of the fear generated by the Bophal tragedy and several high-profile chemical events that occurred in the United States, the U. S. Congress passed the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act in 1986 (SARA). SARA required any facility that manufactured, used, stored, or processed certain kinds and quantities of chemicals to report information about them to local and state emergency officials, and this information was to be made available to the public. This would allow community residents to know what kinds of chemicals were being used or stored near their homes, schools, and businesses.

Meanwhile at the state level in Tennessee, the Bhopal and Waverly incidents had already inspired a sweeping array of new laws and new guidelines to “correct” the problem (TEMA HAZMAT Ops Guide, p. 3). Everyone began to discuss emergency management as the focus of preparedness, rather than “civil defense”. From this transition, TEMA and EMAT were both born to meet the new threats. The New Madrid fault was also first identified as a threat to a seven state area.

Although Tennessee had not been quick to adopt the "emergency management" moniker, the recent disasters changed the pace, and the organization was officially changed to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. Also in 1984, TEMA got its first civilian director. The appointment of Lacy Suiter marked not only the first time a civilian headed the agency, but he also became the first internal employee to head the agency. Mr. Suiter started with TCDA in the 1960s as an Operations Officer, and rose through the ranks to be appointed by Governor Lamar Alexander as the head of TEMA. Mr. Suiter would go on to serve three governors (from both parties), and then became an Executive Associate Director of Response and Recovery at FEMA, following President Clinton's appointment of James Lee Witt as the Director of FEMA. Many of the concepts developed in Tennessee eventually developed into the National Incident Management System (NIMS) through Suiter’s influence.

The many emergencies in the state encouraged the Tennessee Civil Defense Association to change their name to the Emergency Management Association of Tennessee. The decision was made in a meeting on August 6, 1985 chaired by President Joan Blair of Blount County. EMAT came into being on October 1, 1985. The first officers of EMAT were President Charlie Barnhart of Carroll County, who was previously TCDA President. John Collins of Jefferson County became Vice-President in the new organization. An early meeting was held in the State Emergency Operations Center on September 23rd by incoming officers to transfer the financial torch and take care of other items of business, but terms began on October 1st.

The Emergency Management Association of Tennessee was formally chartered in October of 1985. The Tennessee Civil Defense Association carried its business, finances, officers, and processes into the new organization, lock, stock, and barrel. The new organization needed new energy, new money, and a new focus. Membership was down to 41 active members and even the TCDA newsletter was suspended.7 Events were beginning to happen that demanded federal funding.

TCDA President Charlie Barnhart, although never elected became the first de facto EMAT president. President Barnhart could not attend the September 1985 meeting because of the death of his father, but the EMAT leadership recommended that the president appoint Bob Diehl to update the Constitution’s by-laws in time for a vote in February. This was apparently done (no record) since the by-laws were subsequently adopted. In the business session, it was pointed out that the TCDA 20-year charter had expired in March 1983, so steps were required to obtain a new charter with the new name replacing TCDA.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Although potentially confusing due to changes of the EMAT fiscal year, the period of service in office effectively runs from the end of the conference in one year (usually in September-October) until the following conference when a new president is elected. The period of service is one year from 1985 to 2014, but in 2015, the period of service for the president (and officers) was changed to two years.

In 1985 Mike Thompson of Williamson County became the association’s first elected president. The first year of office was marked with dissension due to the membership’s divisions over whether civil defense or emergency management should be the focus of EMAT efforts. President Thompson was challenged to bring the membership together.

Tennessee led the federal government in moving towards the all-hazard, integrated approach to emergency management. Programs were developed to assist local governments in developing emergency management plans and capabilities. This included a full-blown training program, and the development of the first, truly-integrated emergency plan for the state. This plan was known as the Tennessee Emergency Management Plan, or TEMP. The 1986 document became the basis for all emergency management plans and programs with the state and this remains the case today.

Alan Hall of Montgomery County served as EMAT president in 1986-1987.

We are not certain who the president was in 1987 after President Alan Hall. Considerable discussion has surrounded this vacancy with suggestions that Hal Monck (former TCDA president), Mike Thompson (second term) or others may have been in the position, but no evidence (or association minutes) has survived to confirm these thoughts or to positively select one over the other. A search continues for the history from this period to confirm the memories we have.

Billy Barrett served as president sometime in the 80‘s, perhaps 1988. Aaron Womble served as president in the 80’s, perhaps 1989.

Ed Ellington served as president in 1990.

John Parsons served as president in 1991.

Natural disasters became more prevalent and began to attract much more intense media interest. Major hurricanes such as Hurricane Hugo and earthquakes such as those in Loma Prieta focused attention on the shortcomings in federal assistance to state and local governments. The overwhelming scope of these events focused attention on the need for a federal "response" role - a concept foreign to the recovery role that FEMA had long played. FEMA began work on a Federal Response Plan for a Catastrophic Earthquake in California. Over time this would evolve into a full-fledged, national government response plan known simply as the Federal Response Plan, or FRP. Unfortunately, the FRP had not been implemented prior to the landfall of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The federal response to this event, perhaps more than any other, focused attention on the need for FEMA to "reinvent" itself.

Dan Vaughn served as president in 1992.

Bill Travis served as president in 1993.

It is uncertain who served as president from 1994 to 1995.

In 1995 Joel Vincent of Hamilton County served as president.

In 1996 Steven R. Jones served as president. President Jones pushed for K-9 standards and getting the CEMP program going. He was involved in exploring a surcharge on insurance policies in order to help fund EMA programs.

Warren J. Vaughn served as president in 1997.

Nancy McGill of the American Red Cross was EMAT president in 1998.

In 1999 James Medling became president and went on to serve 18 months.

In the late 90’s it began to become obvious that weather patterns were changing worldwide, made particularly evident by the increase in the number of hurricanes and cyclones. The melting of significant percentages of the polar caps began to alter the heat index of the planet, causing fluctuations of weather and altering the delineation between desert and savannah. By the year 2009 Australia had begun to suffer significant drought drying up major portions of the southeast and bankrupting farmers. Tornadoes began to rake the south in a new tornado alley to rival in deaths the traditional one in the plains states.

In 2000 Steven R. Manley served as president.

In 2001 Mike Hall of Lincoln County was president and served for 18 months.

In 2002 Tyler Smith of Putnam County took the presidency.

Jackie Wilkerson was president from 2002-2003. Under President Wilkerson, EMAT began to make serious in-roads toward improving the professionalism of emergency management. Training was presented during the Association’s conferences that dramatically improved the knowledge of responders and helped attendees to understand the complexities of coordinating all of the different response elements. In 2004 a strong effort was undertaken to establish recognition of long-term experience and education in the emergency management field. EMAT began to review and recognize certified emergency management professionals (CEMP) as the highest level and lower levels as emergency manager I and II categories of expertise.

In 2004 R. L. Douglas of Robertson County became president.

In the August 2005 meeting President R. L. Douglas presided over an election that elected Roger Allen as President-Elect, Mike George as West Tennessee vice president, Mark Blackwood as Middle Tennessee vice president and Howie Rose as East Tennessee vice president.

In October 2005 Edwin Hogan of Cheatham County assumed charge as President and R. L. Douglas became the Past President. President Hogan proposed an incentive to pay emergency managers in each county. Ms. Diane Pryor of TEMA stated that TEMA is teaching more CEM classes and that a new brochure is available for the CEM program. In November President Hogan approved a vote to require denied applications to re-submit and pay again after one year. President Hogan proposed to meet with General Bassham, TEMA Director, after TEMA makes it move to its new facilities. Projected completion date for the SEOC renovation is May 2006.

In January 2006 Incoming President (or President-Elect) Roger Allen presided in the absence of the president and proposed that more study be placed on the EM incentive legislation. Ms. Diane Pryor reported that the hard drive for the EMAT computer had failed and needs to be replaced. President-Elect Allen wanted to clean out old EMAT records on hand that are not needed. Ms. Pryor reported that TEMA Operations had moved to Foster Avenue.

In May 2006, President Hogan received reports regarding severe weather in various counties: Dyer County was hit by a tornado destroying 100 homes, damaging 225 and doing $15-16 million worth of damage. There were 16 fatalities and a lot of livestock had been killed. Gibson County was hit by two tornadoes causing $20 million in damage, 8 fatalities and 50 hurt across 4 communities. A micro-burst came through 22 days after the tornadoes although there was no report of the damages. Lincoln County reported seeing seven funnel clouds, but reported none had touched down. President Edwin Hogan reported that Director Bassham had agreed to speak to the Governor’s Office about support for the LEMD incentive bill. President-Elect Roger Allen stated that he had received three applications for CEMP.

In June 2006 President Hogan noted that General Bassham was planning on recognizing one special company that offered emergency help during the tornadoes of January. Applications were being received for the recognitions. Also that year, an announcement was made that Kirt Pickering, PIO of TEMA, had left the agency and Executive Officer Donnie Smith was appointed as temporary TEMA PIO. He served in the aftermath of the federal disasters caused by West Tennessee tornadoes and through the FEMA JFO operation in Jackson, Tennessee.

In July President Hogan noted that the recognition for offering emergency help during the tornadoes of January would be Bristol Motor Speedway. The new PIO for TEMA, Jeremy Heidt, was announced.

In August 2006 President Edwin Hogan approved a vote to present the EMAT Achievement Award to Jerrel Reasons, Crockett County EMA director, who is retiring.

In September 2006 President Edwin Hogan supervised the election of new vice presidents from the three regions: Janice Newman (Carroll County EMA) for West; Kathy Hovis (Lincoln County EMA) for Middle and Paul Putnam (Bledsoe County EMA) for East. Rickey Graves (Gibson County EMA) was nominated as President-Elect.

President Roger Allen of Rutherford County presided over the meeting in November 2006 and approved Mr. Bill Cooper to take Diane Pryor’s place as TEMA representative to the Executive Board. President Allen explained that the last conference cost $120,000, leaving $30-35,000 in the bank. Past President Hogan suggested that the President speak to General Basshamabout the proposed LEMD incentive.

In January 2007 President Allen discussed the open positions on the Executive Board and asked for nominations. President Allen wanted to focus on getting law enforcement, emergency medical service and fire department personnel involved in the association’s board positions, not just emergency management directors. A strong discussion evolved regarding what membership and volunteer leadership does for a person. The discussion ended with a comment that Homeland Security is dictating to local government and no one has time to do anything else. A complaint was heard from two persons in Lincoln County who had applied for CEMP in April of 2006 and have not heard anything. President Allen stated that this was his fault since he could not get commitment from CEMP committee members to meet for consideration. Past President Edwin Hall said he had the same problem when he was President. He wanted to either do the program right or forget about it. Mr. Hall suggested that the board change who is to approve applications. A discussion evolved to put a time limit on each action and change the by-laws for CEMP. A vote was approved to revise program to ensure applications are reviewed and approved in a timely manner. Discussion continued afterward to involve TEMA in the process. Bill Cooper stated that TEMA may not be able to provide financial support to the conference this year and to look at another source. He proposed a number of different projects that could raise money. Some discussion evolved about holding a conference in Memphis in order to obtain EMAT support funding from Shelby County. President Allen reconfirmed a vote to allow the K-9 Handlers to remain a member of the association in return for donation of time and maintenance of animals.

In February 2007 President Allen indicated his concern with non-attending board members and to determine whether they wanted to continue to serve. A discussion evolved to set some standards for attendance for the Executive Board. Discrepancies on the CEMP Review Board were then discussed and whether a CEMP checklist is needed. President Allen complimented Past-President Hogan for sending out nice letters to explain why applications were being denied. This brought a discussion regarding how many applications were backlogged. The report was that three applications were backlogged for over a year. The inference in the discussion was that the delay was in the TEMA Regions where the director did not act on approval. DirectorBassham was brought into the review to ensure timely participation. Adding an evaluator to the checklist was also discussed. Discussion then moved to EMAT member insurance benefit, to means of raising money through donation projects, to trust fund legislation, to EM community leadership and a TEMA speakers’ bureau. A report was received on TEMA involvement with Walmart, Federal Express, Home Depot, Bell South and so on. A report was received on a joint meeting with Kentucky and Tennessee regarding Wolfe Creek Dam.

In March 2007 President Roger Allen briefed the proposed legislation regarding the elimination of blue lights from emergency management vehicles. Discussion then moved to handgun restrictions and the statutory base amount for the LEMD incentive. President Allen requested the board to be alert and brief the leadership on anything that affects emergency management. Discussion then centered on the fire department proposal to enhance standards of training. This would conceivably require Rookie School and Live Burn training after 10 years of phase-in. President Allen indicated that he wanted to add 12 new members to EMAT this year from the Special Operations Response Team and the Paramedics. Mr. Allen noted that some EMA directors were not members of EMAT. A vote was approved to request the vice-presidents to sponsor a recruiting drive for membership in their region. Vice President Kathy Hovis noted that Lincoln County is not happy with EMAT due to the length of time it has taken for EMAT to consider their applications for CEMP. Mr. Allen thought the delay had been fixed, but discussion moved to eliminate TEMA from the review process. Past President Hall asked if the Executive Board needs to suspend the CEMP program until the process can be fixed. President Allen did not want to do this and suggested that another effort be made to repair the delay in TEMA. Discussion then moved to NIMS and its implementation to be discussed at the conference.

In April 2007 President-Elect Rickey Graves, acting in the absence of the President, presided to discuss an update of the movement on the EMAT LEMD incentive. Sponsorship of events was discussed and a discussion of scholarships ensued. Mr. Graves led the discussion to the next steps required to move the EMAT incentive and suggested appointing a legislative sub-committee. President-Elect Graves reconfirmed that the final decision on CEMP approvals rests with the President-Elect and approved James Williams, TEMA, as an EM-1 and the rest of the applications were approved for what they applied for.

In May 2007 President Roger Allen gave an update on legislation pending in the General Assembly affecting emergency management. President Allen approved a vote to create a legislative committee to encourage action on the EMAT incentive bill. President Allen gave an update on CEMP certificates and how they should be presented. Mailing a certificate immediately and then presenting a framed certificate with a pin would be performed at the conference. The President also agreed that an expiration date needs to be added to the certificate. Discussion also followed on developing a card to carry after a person has been made a CEMP or other level. A vote followed and was approved. A vote was proposed and carried to eliminate associate memberships since it is so hard to determine who are members on the floor during a vote. President Allen appointed Mr. Eugene Nichols (Bedford County EMA director) to chairmanship of the Membership Committee. A suggestion was made and passed into motion that a memorial should be prepared for Deputy Director Eddie Boatwright, TEMA who at that time was terminally ill with pancreatic cancer.

In June 2007 President Roger Allen gave another update on legislation pending in the General Assembly and briefed the Attorney General’s opinion regarding emergency management using red lights instead of blue since EM is not law enforcement.

In July 2007 the Executive Board met with Roger Allen (of Rutherford County) as President and determined to begin a process for making the association a 501(c)(3) program, tax deductible. In October the association’s net worth was reported to be over $50,000.

The conference of 2007 saw the election of Ricky Graves of Gibson County as President. President Graves requested and received TEMA support of funding for EMAT and its training and to begin the effort to establish standards for state funding of full time local directors.

In April 2008 President Ricky Graves announced that TEMA had provided $60,000 for catastrophic training for EMAT members. In May Director Bassham announced severe travel restraints had been imposed on state agencies, but funding for training would be provided, although now the funds would come from Central United States Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC). In September a vote was passed to create the Lacey Suitor Award. A proposal was made to extend the President’s term to two years, but President Graves indicated that he did not intend to serve a full second term.

President Graves was a close partner with TEMA during his time as president and, in cooperation with Director James Bassham of TEMA through the project officer, Executive Officer Donnie Smith, established the groundwork for a new law that was adopted to professionalize emergency management directors in Tennessee. The law was sponsored by State Representative Curtis Halford and became TCA 52-2-133, requiring appointees to meet certain educational standards or become qualified within two years. This was a significant step forward since many previous directors were appointed based upon political reasons and were unqualified for the position.

In October of 2008, Janice Newman (of Carroll County) was elected President-Elect. She did not participate as an officer for a large portion of her appointment due to her later decision to run for county court clerk. Incoming president Jody Zorsch presided over many meetings in the latter months of her term. The 2010 Conference was held in Chattanooga.

By 2008 the association had adopted a nine-point purpose statement in its Constitution and By-Laws that emphasized providing a professional association for planning, mitigation, response and recovery from natural and man-made disasters, an association to liaison with local, state and federal governments and agencies in order to promote a harmonious emergency management program, an association to promote channels of communication and mutual aid between political subdivisions, an association to encourage, support and assist industry in the emergency management effort, an association to support educational and training programs to increase efficiency and capability of people, an association to increase the awareness of the public and especially persons in positions of responsibility, an association to coordinate the efforts of its members in protecting lives and property and preserve the national security, an association to evaluate and disseminate experiences, judgments and actions of emergency management specialists, and finally, an association to form a closer relationship with emergency response personnel throughout the state and serve as a clearinghouse for ideas and suggestions. Officers serve for only one year and consist of a President (at-large), a President-Elect, a Secretary/ Treasurer and three Vice-Presidents, one from each region conforming to TEMA’s districts (or regions). At the end of a term, the President-Elect becomes the President. The Secretary/Treasurer is appointed by the President. When a vacancy is created in the President’s position, the President-Elect shall fill it; when a vacancy occurs in the President-Elect, the Executive Committee will elect one of the vice-presidents; and a vacancy of the Secretary/Treasurer or a vice-president will be filled by appointment of the President. The President-Elect performs the duties determined by the President and will chair the Certified Emergency Management Professional (CEMP) Committee. Other standing committees were formed, to include the Awards and Nominations Committee (chaired by a past president), Conference Site Committee, Constitution and By-Laws Committee, Legislative Committee, Membership Committee, Public Relations Committee, Training and Education Committee and CEMP Committee. Each chairman was to serve a year. Two individual awards are established, the Bill Hyder Award, that recognizes key management of a local or state government or senior manager of emergency preparedness in industry and EMAT Achievement Award for excellence in job performance. Two media awards are established, one for print media, the other for broadcast media, for a truly outstanding job in assisting local emergency management activities. An EMAT Business and Industry Recognition Award was established for companies or their employees who support emergency management.

In November 2009 former President Graves asked for an EMA Day on Capitol Hill. In December Immediate Past President Graves requested information on the process of preparing a bill for legislation so the EMAT Family Disaster Protection Act could be proposed. TEMA Executive Officer Donnie Smith announced the roll-out date as January 5, 2009 for activation of the Tier II report E-Plan system. Immediate Past President Graves proposed to re-energize the CEMP program and in concert with TEMA (Donnie Smith) established new standards for education and evaluation. TEMA became closely involved with the evaluation process and performed much of the work to maintain the program. He encouraged TEMA to begin a database to track this training and director education began to be tracked by the state. TEMA began to certify CEMP through its Training Directorate and to issue certificates.

Tera Simmons, the Secretary, submitted her resignation, but agreed to transition for 2-3 months.

The 2010 Conference was held in Chattanooga.

In 2010, Jody Zorsch of Morgan County became President. The 2011 Conference was held in Murfreesboro.

In 2011, Bill Brown of Greene County became President. Due to medical reasons, Jimmy Floyd, the Incoming President, presided over most meetings during 2012. The 2012 Conference was held in Sevier County.

In 2012, Jimmy Floyd of Coffee County became President and moved to Madison County while serving. The 2013 Conference was held in Jackson. The Jackson conference saved a great deal of money in Madison County and helped the association to stabilize fiscally. Janet Kelley of Hickman County was appointed Secretary.

In 2013. Tony Reavley of Hamilton County became President. President Reavley enhanced the process of conference management and pressed for other means of fiscal support for the association, especially vendors and corporate sponsors.

Secretary Janet Kelley resigned and Donnie Smith, retiring executive officer of TEMA and resident in Rutherford County, was appointed as Secretary.

TEMA PIO Jeremy Heidt left TEMA in July and Executive Officer Dean Flener picked up his duties, to include interface with EMAT. The EMAT Conference in 2014 was held in Nashville at the Maxwell House Hotel.

In the 2014 conference, John Mathews of Sevier County became President. President Mathews proposed a change of name for the EMAT Executive Board to become the EMAT Board of Directors, and proposed to extend the term of the President by one year. President Mathews took action to improve many procedures of the association and improved its efficiency significantly. Upon appointment President Mathews immediately held a meeting under the concepts of Total Quality Management that captured many board directors thoughts on what the goals should be for the coming year and after the barnstorming session collected these into 9 points of emphasis, each of which was provided a committee chairman (chairperson):

Membership Committee -
Develop a map of the state to show EM Directors who belong to EMAT
Push for 100% county EMPG membership

Strategic Planning (Long Range Planning) Committee -
Develop a program of instruction for new EM Directors (EMD 101)
Develop a program of instruction for county PIO’s

Finance, Ways & Means Committee -
Prepare a budget that shows the conference supporting itself

Standards, Training & CEMP Committee -
Develop a training plan for regional training (by May)
Prepare to train new directors in EMD 101 (by July)

Historical Committee -
Relocate existing EMAT records, office equipment, records, furniture and plaques to the new EMAT office in TEMA
Acquire a computer, network line and keys to the EMAT office
Create the EMAT President’s Roll of Honor Plaque in TEMA and locate it in the EMAT office within TEMA
Prepare a list of past Hyder Award recipients (back to 2012)

Awards & Nominations Committee -
Develop a protocol for presentation of EMAT awards
Develop a plan to take CEMP recipients’ photos
Utilize the EMAT PIO to distribute award information to the media
Develop a new EMAT Service Award for directors

Conference Committee -
Announce the Conference theme early (by January)
Submit earlier invitations to the vendors for better attendance
Develop a 2016 Conference neutral balanced budget (by January)
Prepare a request for proposal for the 2017 conference (by March)
Announce a date and location for the 2017 conference (by July)
Develop a “Pass the Gavel” process (before the conference)
Review 2015 membership surveys (before the conference)

Constitution & By-Laws Committee -
Be prepared to develop changes presented by the board
Write new by-laws and place them on-line (web site)

Legislative Committee -
Set a date for EMAT Day on the Hill (Third week in February)
Promote EMAT Day on the Hill to achieve 25 or more attendees
Coordinate a room at the Legislative Plaza for EM directors to meet for EMAT Day on the Hill
Prepare handouts and props as necessary
Amend TCA to define “first responders”
Obtain bill sponsors (Done: Senator Janice Boling/Representative Curtis Halford)
Consider the impact of drones and whether further guidance is required
Determine the feasibility of a fulltime executive director by 2018

President Mathews changed the EMAT fiscal year to January 1 through December 31 to create a Strategic Planning Committee with a Five Year Calendar, he deleted the VOAD committee (already represented in TEMA), and created a Historical Committee (to improve implementation of programs) which was confirmed by vote of the membership at the 2015 conference.

With the approval of the membership body, the years of service change went into effect immediately and extended President Mathews’ time in office into 2016. The 2016 platform was essentially an extension of the original 2015 platform, but with the re-focus of emphasis on passing legislation to enhance responder benefits.

Since the bill in its original form failed, great effort was placed upon its passage to define “emergency management first responders,” and a benefit of $25,000 was attached to the bill for the families of emergency responders who were killed in an emergency. The cost, although not large by state budgetary standards, eventually saw the bill pigeon-holed after having been approved by the House and Senate.

This political weakness became a catalyst for the president to push for a joint effort with the Tennessee County Services Association, which includes mayors, county commissioners and county road superintendents, to pursue a stronger information program to the legislature, the public and other influential officials. The “merger” was a test to determine if it would help the EMAT association in serving the public and enhance the stature of emergency management.

President Mathews pointed out that affiliating with the TCSA did more than any other action to make the EMAT an influential organization that could change emergency management law and policy. No longer was emergency management quiescent in its approach to serving the citizens of Tennessee. The economical step of spending $15,000 per year to support the joint executive director also prevented the jarring prospect of paying for a fulltime EMAT executive director and center for accurate disaster information.

President Mac Purdy (of the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency) assumed the gavel in the November conference (2016). He began to provide immediate new visions regarding the functions of the Board of Directors.

 President Purdy said his vision of how the board meetings should be formed in the future is for each committee to meet prior to the main board and develop their reports. These reports would be presented to the primary board membership, which would then approve or alter the recommendations received. This concept required the 9 permanent committees and 2 temporary committees to be present and active to get anything accomplished.  

 President Purdy announced that his goals for this term are to get all 95 county directors, plus one stakeholder from each county, into the membership rolls of the association; achieve vendor growth; work on training content in the conference, developing 10 or more breakouts for attendees to select from; and to update the strategic plan to include 3-5 years out for geographic locations for the conference.

 President Purdy said he wanted to focus on a joint training conference with topics on search and rescue/urban search and rescue, on hazardous materials, incident management, and professional development. He wants a Private Sector Committee, an approved internship program, EMAT presence at other conferences, academic and practitioner collusion and an invitation for other association representation at the EMAT conference, in effect, establishing a joint preparedness summit. He stated that he wants to update the CEMP/CEM (certified emergency management program) certificate and the background requirements and issued a challenge to all board members to become CEMP qualified. He also wants a challenge to go out to all TEMA members for CEMP qualification.

 As a continued part of his vision, he wanted to achieve full state funding for a fulltime county director in every county and to permanently include this in state law and institutionalize annual funding in the state budget. He wants to de-link the EMPG (FEMA emergency management program grant) program from funding salary requirements and free the program to fund annually selected emergency management projects essential to the county. This fits with his concept to attain 95 fulltime emergency management directors, to fund county programs through disaster recovery funds and day-to-day state funding, and to schedule a baseline EMAP (FEMA-recognized emergency management assistance program) assessment for all 95 county programs in the state. 

 The decision to associate with the Tennessee County Services Association (TCSA) produced its first measurable success with the passage of the bill that legally defines a first responder and includes the emergency management personnel in the county as first responders. The bill morphed into a series of better protections, but in its final form provided the original $25,000 death benefit for any family of a first responder killed while on duty. The Deputy Governor promised to include the amount in the Governor’s budget, and this assured the bill its passage and retention. The bill’s sponsors were Representative Curtis Halford and Senator Charles Sargent. This was a small step, but with the active support of the TCSA executive director, David Connor, along with Board of Directors personal visits to legislators, this success gave emergency managers a hope of better things to come.

In 2018 President Brian Gard (Emergency Management Director, University of Tennessee-Knoxville/Knox County) became president.

 In his introductory message to the board, President Gard said the board must be efficient and effective.  The board must push the work into the committees who will in turn coordinate with the board. The chairmen should select the members of their committee and report them to the president. He encouraged each committee chairman to have goals, progress and meeting dates at least quarterly and to report these to the board. He said when there is a conflict with a holiday, the board meeting date will be bumped to the net Thursday. He said he plans to update the Five Year Plan.

He announced a priority change for the association to pursue improvement of the professionalism of emergency management in the state, improve the membership base and diversity, be an advocate for emergency preparedness initiatives, and focus on comprehensive state-wide impact.  

He wants to take the EMAT Association from a good organization to a transformational organization. He said he wants membership and outreach to be involved in engagement and diversity. He said emergency management professionalism should focus on identity, credentials, appointment criteria, funding and legislation. He said the conference committee should focus on the core tasks.

President Gard said he believes the EMAT mission is all inclusive and intends to create a private sector committee. He closed by saying that a strong state emergency management association helps the local emergency management agencies.

NOTE:  This summary is a work in progress and will be updated as minutes are provided to support the summary. Please send any recommended changes to

EMAT Executive Board minutes, August 2005 to April 2008.

EMAT Executive Board minutes, 2009-2014.

EMAT Board of Directors minutes, January 2015 to present.

Civil Defense Bulletin, Series 82-8/23, Federal Emergency Management Agency,
SUBJECT: Status of FY-83 Appropriations, (also found in TEMA Newsletter, March 1983).

TEMA Newsletter, September 1982

TEMA Newsletter, September-October 1985

TEMA Hazardous Materials Oversight Operations Guide, p.1, December 1, 2008.