Order Code RS21798
March 23, 2004
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
North Dakota Emergency Management and
Homeland Security Authorities Summarized
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
L. Cheryl Runyon and Kae M. Warnock
Government and Finance Division
The North Dakota Disaster Act delegates powers to the governor, the state’s
emergency management agency, and local emergency management agencies. The
statute also provides for mutual aid agreements and outlines disaster mitigation
requirements. Assistance and funding come primarily from federal aid through the
Stafford Act (42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq) and loans to match federal funds. Political
subdivisions may enter into mutual aid agreements.
This report is one of a series that profiles emergency management and homeland
security statutory authorities of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico,
American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each profile identifies the more
significant elements of state statutes, generally as codified. Congressional readers may
wish to conduct further searches for related provisions using the Internet link presented
in the last section of this report. The National Conference of State Legislatures provided
primary research assistance in the development of these profiles under contract to the
Congressional Research Service (CRS). Summary information on all of the profiles is
presented in CRS Report RL32287. This report will be updated as developments
Entities with Key Responsibilities
Governor: The statute outlines emergency powers of the governor to support national
defense or cooperate with agencies of the United States to transport persons or property
and to conserve and use vital transportation equipment, materials, and supplies, among
other provisions (N.D. Cent. Code §54-07-01.1). During a state of disaster or emergency
the governor may commandeer private property, compel evacuation or control movement
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of population in affected or threatened areas, and ration life- and property-sustaining
commodities (N.D. Cent. Code §37-17.1-05).
Division of Emergency Management: The statute established the division in the
office of the adjutant general. The director of the division is appointed by the adjutant
general. Staff of the division are required to prepare and maintain a state disaster plan.
The plan may include provisions for: mitigation; effective response; emergency relief;
identification of vulnerable areas; and means of helping local officials develop emergency
plans. The statute mandates that the division coordinate the procurement of supplies;
provide planning guidance to state and local officials; organize manpower and chains of
command; and coordinate federal, state, and local emergency management activities,
among others (N.D. Cent. Code §37-17.1-06).
State Auditor: The state auditor’s office must review expenditures transferred or
made available by the emergency commission and incorporate findings in financial
statements (N.D. Cent. Code §54-10-01.1).
Emergency Commission: The commission is authorized to order the transfer of funds
among accounts (with the advice of the office of management and budget) and may order
spending authority transfers from the contingencies appropriations. The statute also
authorizes the commission to authorize funds to be withdrawn from the state treasury to
meet an emergency until the legislative assembly is able to make an appropriation.
Certain funding actions require legislative approval (N.D. Cent. Code §54-16 et seq.).
Emergency Response Commission: The commission implements provisions of the
federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, designates local
planning committees, and is charged with administering the hazardous chemicals
preparedness and response fund (N.D. Cent. Code §37-17. 1-07.1-2).
Political Subdivisions: Each county must maintain an emergency management
organization; each city must either provide an emergency management organization of its
own, or participate in the countywide plan (N.D. Cent. Code §37-17.1-07).
The Disaster Act of 1985 established a policy to reduce the vulnerability of people
and communities to damage, injury, and loss of life and property resulting from natural
or manmade disasters or emergencies, or hostile military or paramilitary action. The
statute calls for the rapid and orderly start of restoration and rehabilitation of persons and
property affected by disasters or emergencies. The statute clarifies the roles of the
governor, state agencies, and local governments in mitigation of, preparation for, and
response to and recovery from disasters or emergencies (N.D. Cent. Code § 37-17.1).
The division of emergency management is to ascertain the means that exist for rapid
and efficient communications in times of a disaster or emergency (N.D. Cent. Code §3717.1-13).
The governor may declare a disaster or emergency, and the legislative assembly, by
concurrent resolution, may terminate the declaration at any time. The declaration
activates state and local operational plans and authorizes the deployment and use of state
forces. The governor is authorized to suspend provisions of any statute or order if strict
compliance would impede response management (N.D. Cent. Code §37-17.1-05).
Types of Assistance
The governor may establish temporary housing for disaster victims in cases where
such victims are unable to meet their needs through other means. The statute authorizes
use of temporary housing units from any federal agency, as well as “pass through” funds
to aid victims (N.D. Cent. Code §37-17.1-19).
Consistent with federal law (42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq.), the governor is authorized to
enter into agreements to establish, in the event of a presidentially declared “major
disaster,” a program of community disaster loans for communities unable to meet or
provide for essential governmental functions through other means (N.D. Cent. Code §3717.1-20). The statute authorizes the governor to order debris and wreckage removal
caused by a disaster in cases where removal cannot be provided through other means, and
authorizes acceptance of federal funds, indemnifies the state against claims arising from
debris removal, and limits liability (N.D. Cent. Code §37-17.1-21).
Counties, cities and other political subdivisions are encouraged to enter into mutual
aid agreements with other public and private agencies. Arrangements must include
provision of aid by public employees. Staff of the division of emergency management
must review emergency plans to determine whether they contain adequate provisions for
mutual aid (N.D. Cent. Code §37-17.1-14, 37-17.1-14.1).
The statute authorizes interstate mutual aid agreements or compacts with any state
that has enacted or shall enact a compact substantially similar to the Interstate Mutual Aid
Compact. Interstate mutual aid compacts must be reviewed every four years. The
governor may also enter into intergovernmental arrangements with neighboring provinces
of Canada (N.D. Cent. Code §37-17.1-14.2).
The Interstate Mutual Aid Agreement or Compact is codified (N.D. Cent. Code §3717.1-14.5).
The statute gives counties and cities the authority to make appropriations for
expenses of local emergency management organizations. When the federal government
or others offer services, supplies, or funds for emergency management, the state may
accept such offers (N.D. Cent. Code §37-17.1-18).
The director of the division of emergency management is to determine and record
the costs of state response and recovery operations. The governor is to apply to the state
emergency commission for grants equal to response and recovery costs (N.D. Cent. Code
The statute authorizes the division of emergency management, with approval of the
state emergency commission, to borrow, from the Bank of North Dakota, funds to match
federal funds awarded under the Stafford Act. The statute specifies that the Bank of
North Dakota is to receive interest on the loan, obligates the emergency commission to
repay any loan, and requires that a deficiency appropriation be requested if necessary
(N.D. Cent. Code §37-17.1-23).
State boards, agencies or commissions, with the approval of the emergency
commission, may borrow from the Bank of North Dakota to respond to a disaster (N.D.
Cent. Code §54-16-13).
The director of the state historical society is to administer the historical impact
emergency fund for the purpose of emergency mitigation of adverse effects on cultural
resources and historical buildings in the state. The fund may only be used after the
emergency commission has authorized the proposed use and expenditure of money. The
statute authorizes the acceptance of money by gift, grant, devise, or bequest (N.D. Cent.
The governor shall consider steps to mitigate or reduce the harmful consequences
of disasters or emergencies. State agencies with specified responsibilities (floodplain
management, stream encroachment and flow regulation, weather modification, fire
prevention and control, air quality, public works, land use and land use planning, and
construction standards) shall make studies of disaster or emergency mitigation-related
matters. The governor is to make recommendations to the legislature and local
governments, undertake other measures for mitigation, and may place a new standard or
control in effect. The governor’s action is subject to judicial review (N.D. Cent. Code
Continuity of Government Operations
The statute gives the legislature authority to provide for prompt and temporary
succession for public offices. During an emergency, the statute allows for the waiver of
constitutional restrictions regarding: location of governmental business; calling of
legislative sessions; length of sessions; quorum and voting requirements; subjects of
legislation and appropriations bill requirements; eligibility of legislators to hold other
offices; residence requirements for legislators; and upon expenditures, loans or donations
of public money (N.D. Constitution, Article XI, Section 7).
The statute grants leaves of absence to full-time employees of the state and its
political subdivisions who are certified as disaster services volunteers who provide
disaster relief services. Workers’ compensation provisions are suspended during leave.
The statute limits a leave of absence to five working days during any calendar year and
protects seniority and benefits (N.D. Cent. Code §54-06-14.3, 54-06-27).
The statute grants temporary short-term leave with compensation to any full-time
employee of governmental entities if the employee is a volunteer emergency medical
service provider, firefighter, emergency radio operator, or a member of the civil air patrol
(N.D. Cent. Code §54-06-28).
The statute prohibits the use of public funds for crisis relocation planning or mass
evacuations in the event of the threat of a nuclear war (N.D. Cent. Code §37-17.1-18.1).
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Terms Defined in North Dakota Statutes, with Citations
N.D. Cent. Code §37-17.1-04(1)
Disaster or emergency worker
N.D. Cent. Code §37-17.1-04(2)
N.D. Cent. Code §37-17.1-04(3)
N.D. Cent. Code §54-16-00.1(1)
N.D. Cent. Code §37-17.1-04(4)
N.D. Cent. Code §37-17.1-04(5)
For Further Research
The citations noted above and other elements of the state code for North Dakota may
be searched at: [http://www.state.nd.us/lr/information/statutes/cent-code.html].