Order Code RS21800
April 2, 2004
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Georgia Emergency Management and
Homeland Security Statutory Authorities
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
L. Cheryl Runyon and Kae M. Warnock
Government and Finance Division
The governor has broad emergency management powers under the Georgia
Emergency Management Act of 1981 (Ga. Code §38-3-1 et seq.). Local governments
must develop emergency management capabilities. The governor is authorized to
declare a state of emergency at his or her discretion, but in the event of a public health
emergency, the governor must issue a call for a special session of the General Assembly.
A state of emergency remains in force until the governor determines that the threat or
emergency has passed, or for a period of 30 days maximum. The state of emergency
may be renewed by the governor and may be terminated by the General Assembly
through enactment of a concurrent resolution. The continuity of government provisions
require elected officials to submit the names of designated successors to the secretary
of state, and also authorize the relocation of the seat of government to a site within or
outside the state.
This report is one of a series that profiles the 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,
and three territories (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 warrant.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Entities with Key Responsibilities
Governor: The governor exercises general direction and control of the Georgia
Emergency Management Agency and is authorized to: make, amend, or rescind orders,
rules and regulations related to emergency management; prepare a comprehensive plan
and emergency management program; ascertain requirements for, and plan to procure,
supplies; coordinate with the President and officials of other states on emergency
management procedures; use services and facilities of existing state and local offices;
enter into reciprocal aid agreements and compacts with other states and the federal
government; sponsor and develop mutual aid agreements within the state; and study the
potential in the state to reduce consequences from manmade or natural disasters (Ga.
Code §38-3-22 (a,b)). Also, the governor is authorized to control traffic for evacuation
(Ga. Code §38-3-24) and may enter into, amend, supplement and implement agreements
with other states for mutual military aid (Ga. Code §38-2-93). The governor has powers
to: enforce all laws relating to emergency management and to assume control of all civil
forces (among others); seize or condemn property; sell, give, or lend property to
inhabitants; perform powers and duties to promote and secure the safety and protection
of the population, and provide temporary housing (Ga. Code §38-3-51(c)).
Georgia Emergency Management Agency, director of emergency management: The
director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) is appointed by the
governor; the director coordinates the activities of all emergency management
organizations within the state; serves as liaison with, and cooperates with, other states’
emergency management organizations and the federal government; acts as disaster
coordinator (Ga. Code §38-3-20), and has authority to promulgate rules and regulations
(Ga. Code §38-3-21). The Director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency
(GEMA) reports directly to the state director of homeland security, per executive order
of the Governor, issued March 13, 2003 [information provided by GEMA staff].
Local organization for emergency management: Each county or municipality (if the
county does not) may establish a local organization for emergency management. Each
organization is authorized to perform emergency management functions. The statute
establishes the requirements and duties of local directors (Ga. Code §§38-3-27, 38-3-28).
Department of Human Resources: The department is authorized to apply for, receive,
and administer grants or donations for health purposes from the federal government and
state appropriations, and to use the funds for health aspects of civil defense (Ga. Code
State grants are authorized to be allocated to local emergency management
organizations for the purchase of equipment, with matching requirements, prohibitions,
and requirements for priorities established by the state director of emergency management
(Ga. Code §38-3-27). The governor may authorize state department heads to lease or lend
real and personal property, or to enter into contracts for the lease or loan of personal and
real property, or to temporarily transfer personnel (Ga. Code §38-3-25).
The governor is authorized to use state aid to establish mobile support units to
reinforce emergency management organizations in stricken areas (Ga. Code §38-3-26).
The director of emergency management is authorized to promulgate rules and
regulations for training and licensing private search and rescue dog teams, and must
maintain a registry of such teams (Ga. Code §38-3-36).
The governor may declare a state of emergency in the event of an actual or pending
disaster or attack, but in the event of a public health emergency, the governor is required
to issue a call for a special session of the General Assembly. Such an emergency
proclamation continues in effect until the governor determines that the threat has passed
and terminates the state of emergency. A state of emergency may continue for a
maximum of 30 days, with a possibility of renewal by the governor. The General
Assembly may terminate a state of emergency with enactment of a concurrent resolution.
A declaration activates the state emergency response and recovery aspects of applicable
state and local plans (Ga. Code §38-3-51(a,b)).
Types of Assistance
Once a state of emergency or disaster is issued, the governor may provide welfare
benefits to meet the needs of affected individuals and families (Ga. Code §38-3-51(g).
Taxpayers receiving disaster assistance from GEMA or the Federal Emergency
Management Agency are allowed a $500 tax credit or the actual amount of assistance
received, whichever is less (Ga. Code §48-7-29.4).
The state may accept federal services, equipment, supplies, material, and funds (Ga.
The Georgia Mutual Aid Act is codified to authorize local law enforcement agencies
to provide assistance extraterritorially in emergencies (Ga. Code §36-69-1 et seq.).
The statute authorizes local mutual aid pacts (Ga. Code §38-3-29). A unit of local
government in which equipment is used is liable for loss or damage to the equipment (Ga.
The Southern Regional Emergency Management Compact is codified (Ga. Code
§38-3-80 et seq.).
The statute established a state fund to provide grant assistance to local emergency
management organizations (Ga. Code §38-3-27(c)).
If insufficient funds are available after an emergency or disaster declaration is issued,
the governor may transfer funds from any account (Ga. Code §38-3-51(e,f)).
The governor may develop or require additional plans, projects, studies or research
to prevent or reduce losses to human life and property from natural or manmade disasters
or enemy attack, and develop or require measures to be implemented that will have the
greatest potential for reducing future losses (Ga. Code §38-3-22 (c)).
Continuity of Government Operations
All state officers are to designate emergency interim successors and their order of
succession within 30 days of taking office. If, after a disaster or emergency, the officer
and his or her deputy are unavailable, the successors are to perform the duties until the
governor appoints a successor to fill each vacancy, or an election is held as specified by
law. Emergency interim successors may only exercise governmental powers during a
disaster or emergency. State statutes set out the qualifications for the position, require
that county officers also designate emergency interim successors, and establish oath
requirements and compensation provisions (Ga. Code §38-3-50(b)-(i)).
If the governor is unable to conduct state government affairs in Atlanta, he or she,
by proclamation, may declare a temporary emergency location for government within or
outside the state. The temporary location remains the seat of government until the
General Assembly establishes a new location, or the governor terminates the emergency
or disaster, and the seat of government returns to the normal location. All state
government acts passed at the temporary seat of government are binding (Ga. Code §38-352).
The General Assembly may meet in a new location at the call of the governor or
through the initiative of members of the General Assembly following a natural or
manmade disaster or enemy attack. Sessions of the assembly are not limited to length of
sessions set out in the constitution. The General Assembly is authorized to suspend rules
of procedure during an emergency or disaster (Ga. Code §38-3-53).
Local governments are authorized to move their seat of government during an
emergency and to conduct government business (Ga. Code §38-3-54,55).
The Georgia state constitution provides a line of succession to the office of the
governor (Ga. Constitution Article 5, Section I, Paragraph V).
A person, firm, or corporation that permits an emergency management agency,
board, other authority of the state or a political subdivision to use their premises without
charge to shelter persons during a real or practice emergency is granted sovereign
immunity (Ga. Code §38-3-32).
Persons who, or corporations that, provide equipment at no cost during an emergency
or disaster, “whether or not officially declared as such,” are immune from civil damages
(Ga. Code §38-3-33). Persons who advocate change in the U.S. government by force
cannot work for any state emergency management organization (Ga. Code §38-3-34).
The statute establishes the immunity of the state for injuries or property damage
suffered by volunteer emergency management workers, and provides immunity to the
state or political subdivisions for death, injury, or property damage associated with
emergency management activities (Ga. Code §38-3-35).
The statute prohibits counties (or municipalities under specified conditions) that have
not established local organizations for emergency management from receiving state
disaster relief funding (Ga. Code §38-3-27(f)).
The governor is authorized to direct the Department of Human Resources to
coordinate the state response to a public health emergency, including the establishment
of due process procedures for quarantine or vaccination programs (Ga. Code §38-3-51
The Disaster Volunteer Leave Act provides that a state employee certified to provide
volunteer disaster service with the Red Cross may be granted leave of up to 15 days in a
12-month period in order to participate in relief services (Ga. Code §38-3-90 et seq.).
Officials of every public school must prepare a school safety plan to address
preparedness for natural disasters, accidents, and terrorism acts (Ga. Code §20-2-1185).
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Terms Defined in Georgia Statutes, with Citations
Ga. Code §31-12-1.1 (1), §38-3-3 (1)
Ga. Code §38-3-72
Ga. Code §38-3-91 (1)
Ga. Code §38-3-40 (a) (1), §38-3-91 (1)
Ga. Code §38-3-50(a) (2)
Emergency interim successor
Ga. Code §38-3-50 (a) (3)
Ga. Code §38-3-3 (2)
Ga. Code §36-69-2
Public health emergency
Ga. Code §31-12-1.1 (2), §38-3-3-(6),
State of emergency
Ga. Code §38-3-3(7), §38-3-51
Ga. Code §38-3-91 (2)
Ga. Code §38-3-50 (a) (8)
Ga. Code §38-3-50 (a) (9)
For Further Research
The citations noted above and other elements of the state code for Georgia may be
searched at: [http://www.legis.state.ga.us/cgi-bin/gl_codes_detail.pl?code=1-1-1].