The history of emergency management mutual aid can be traced back to a perceived threat of nuclear attack in 1949, when the Soviet Union exploded its first nuclear device and the North Koreans invaded South Korea. President Truman established the Federal Civil Defense Administration to safeguard American citizens. Congress quickly followed suit and passed three acts in 1950: the Federal Civil Defense Act, the Defense Production Act, and the Disaster Relief Act. The Disaster Relief Act was established for natural and man-caused disasters.
President Carter later used an Executive Order to develop the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as was proposed by the National Governors' Association to assist in responding to disasters, both nuclear and natural.
In 1992, when Hurricane Andrew devastated Florida, it became apparent that even with federal resources, states would need to call upon one another in times of emergencies. As a result, the Southern Governors' Association (SGA) coordinated with Virginia's Department of Emergency Services to develop a state-to-state mutual aid agreement: the Southern Regional Emergency Management Assistance Compact (SREMAC), which was adopted in 1993.
In January 1994, the SGA voted to open membership to any state or territory in the Union that wished to join. The broadened agreement was called the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) became the administrator of EMAC in 1995.
In 1996, EMAC became Public Law (PL-104-321) when the U.S. Congress ratified EMAC, making it the first national disaster compact since the Civil Defense Compact of 1950 to be ratified by Congress.