Thinking Out Loud

Man, by virtue of evolution, is programmed to learn by swapping tales around the campfire. Welcome to my fire.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Authority by State

I was doing a bit of searching for just which states have laws that authorize some level of their government to order mandatory evacuations. Texas, where I live, specifically denies that authority while Colorado's state attorney general has given his opinion that any level of government has that authority.

Digging into each state's laws is more than I want to do, but I did find some references for anyone who wants to look into their own state's position on emergency response.

A Guide to Directors of Homeland Security, Emergency Management, and Military Departments in the States and Territories of the United States identifies the state agency, the director, and has links for each state agency for all 50 states and 4 other US entities.

Disaster Evacuation and Displacement Policy is a summary report prepared for Congress that addresses some of the policy issues associated with disaster response at a Federal level.

This second report is noteworthy in another aspect. The opening paragraph begins:

Using the authority set out in state laws and local ordinances, state and local officials may suggest or require the evacuation of residents and communities before certain catastrophes occur.

It seems to me that the authors of the report clearly consider any authority for evacuation to be a power of the states rather than the federal government. When we argue about what the federal government did or did not do in any emergency situation, this is an important point.

The report goes on to say:

To a limited extent, federal statues authorize agency heads to use federal resources to assist in the evacuation of civilians.

This certainly makes sense. Since the power to mandate an evacuation, when it exists, exists at the state or local level then federal agencies can never be more than assistance.

Important concepts, my friends, very important concepts.

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