Order Code RS21804
April 2, 2004
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
District of Columbia Emergency Management
and Homeland Security Statutory Authorities
Keith Bea and Sula P. Richardson
Specialist and Analyst in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
L. Cheryl Runyon and Kae M. Warnock
Government and Finance Division
The District of Columbia code addresses disasters and emergencies through public
emergency statutes (§7-2201 et seq.) and the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2002 (§22-3152 et
seq.). The mayor is authorized to declare emergencies, and the District Council
participates in continuity of government efforts. Aid is provided from a special
emergency fund and accepted from the federal government. The District of Columbia
code provides for an interstate civil defense compact and an emergency management
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,
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
Mayor: The District of Columbia code authorizes the mayor to establish an
emergency preparedness office to prepare for enemy attack, sabotage, or other hostile
action through plans and programs that provide protection, relief, and assistance for
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people and property. The mayor is authorized to appoint a member of the Metropolitan
Police Department or a member of the Fire Department to any emergency preparedness
office position (D.C. Code Ann.§7-2202, 7-2203). The mayor may establish a public
emergency preparedness program that uses the services of all appropriate agencies and
includes the development of an emergency operations plan, procedures for training staff
and conducting exercises. Also, the mayor must review the District’s response plan
annually and coordinate federal and state preparedness programs (D.C. Code Ann.§72302). After issuing an emergency executive order, the mayor may: expend funds to
carry out emergency missions and responsibilities, enter into contracts, incur obligations,
employee temporary workers, rent equipment, buy supplies, spend public funds, prepare
for and implement measures to protect people and property (evacuation to emergency
shelters), disconnect utilities, destroy contaminated property, regulate the sale and
distribution of food, fuel, clothing, goods and services, establish curfews, establish public
emergency services, have operational direction of all agencies, procure supplies and
equipment, begin training and public information programs, request federal disaster
assistance, prevent or reduce harmful consequences of disasters, and detain or quarantine
people for medical reasons (D.C. Code Ann.§7-2304(b)).
Emergency Management Agency: The Emergency Management Agency (EMA,
previously the Office of Emergency Preparedness) is authorized to: prepare a
comprehensive plan and program for civil defense, institute training and public
information programs, make studies and surveys of district civil defense resources and
capabilities, and develop and enter into mutual aid agreements with state or political
subdivisions. Also, the office is to: cooperate with governmental and nongovernmental
agencies; accept facilities, supplies and funding from the federal government; use
resources of existing district departments; and submit an annual report through the office
of the mayor to Congress about activities and expenditures (D.C. Code Ann.§ §7-2203,
7-2205, 7-2208, Mayor’s Order 98-198, Jan. 8, 1999, 46 DCR 240).
Emergency Planning Council: The council monitors and informs the public about
the use of hazardous chemicals, coordinates training and technical assistance, designates
local emergency planning districts, sets procedures and systems to receive and process
emergency release reporting, and works to increase state and local emergency response
capabilities (Mayor's Order number 2002-01).
Domestic Preparedness Task Force: The task force is charged with examining the
District’s overall preparedness, existing emergency plans and procedures, and related
training efforts. Also, the task force is charged with refining the District’s emergency
operations plan and other emergency plans, along with the Emergency Management
Agency, to develop the District response plan (Mayor's Order number 2001-142).
The mayor is to establish a public emergency preparedness program using services
of all appropriate agencies, including EMA, and develop a response plan to include
preparation against, and assistance following, emergencies and major disasters. The plan
must include provisions on staff appointment and training, formulation of regulations, and
procedures and exercises (D.C. Code Ann.§7-2302(a)(1)(B)).
The mayor is authorized to issue an emergency executive order that identifies the
existence, nature, extent, and severity of a public emergency, as well as measures to
relieve the emergency. The statute specifies requirements of the order, persons upon
whom the order is binding, and the duration of the order (D.C. Code Ann.§7-2304).
In addition to an emergency executive order, the mayor may issue an additional order
proclaiming a public health emergency for an imminent hazard, or the actual occurrence
of such an event, due to: a large number of deaths; a large number of serious human
health disabilities; widespread exposure to infectious or toxic agents; and the use,
dissemination or detonation of weapons of mass destruction. The public health
emergency executive order must specify: the existence, nature and scope of the
emergency; its geographic scope; and conditions, measures and the expected duration of
emergency. The mayor is authorized to order health care providers to assist, and appoint
providers as temporary employees, and exempt them from liability, or waive licensing
requirements (D.C. Code Ann.§7-2304.01).
Any emergency executive order issued by the mayor is effective for a maximum
period of 15 days and may be rescinded by the mayor if he or she determines that the
emergency no longer exists. The order may be extended for an additional 15-day period
only if requested by the mayor, and if the Council of the District of Columbia adopts an
emergency act. The emergency executive order must be published in the D.C. Register,
two daily newspapers and posted in public places as soon as reasonably possible (D.C.
Code Ann. §7-2306).
Types of Assistance
See discussion under “Entities with Key Responsibilities,” Mayor.
The statute authorizes the mayor to implement the Emergency Management
Assistance Compact as codified (D.C. Code Ann.§7-2331 et seq.).
The mayor is authorized to enter into interstate civil defense compacts with the
states, in the form specified (D.C. Code Ann.§7-2209).
The mayor may enter into agreements with the federal government, neighboring
states, and political subdivisions for coordination of disaster preparedness programs (D.C.
Code Ann. §7-2306(f)).
The statute establishes an emergency cash reserve fund which must contain a balance
of not less than four percent of the District’s operating budget for a fiscal year. The fund
is to be used for unanticipated and nonrecurring “extraordinary needs of an emergency
nature,” such as a natural disaster, and may be used when the mayor issues a state of
emergency declaration (D.C. Code Ann. §1-204.50a).
The mayor must issue regulations, or recommend legislation to the D.C. Council,
related to flood plain management, stream encroachment, weather modification, fire
prevention, air quality, land use and construction standards to prevent and manage
harmful consequences of disasters (D.C. Code Ann. §7-2305).
Continuity of Government Operations
If death or destruction prohibits the convening of two-thirds of the Council members,
the mayor must make a reasonable attempt to consult with Council members not affected
for the consideration of emergency legislation (D.C. Code Ann.§7-2306 (c)).
The mayor is exempt from publishing response plans and terrorism vulnerability
assessments in the D.C. Register (D.C. Code Ann. §7-2302 (c)).
D.C. employees are not liable for damages stemming from implementation of the
District’s response plan (D.C. Code Ann. §7-2302 (e)).
A civil defense employee or a volunteer is not liable for death or injury to a person,
or property damage, when complying with emergency management statutes. This
provision does not affect the employee’s rights to worker’s compensation (D.C. Code
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Terms Defined in District of Columbia Statutes, with Citations
Act of terrorism
D.C. Code Ann. §22-3152 (1)
D.C. Code Ann. §22.3152 (2)
D.C. Code Ann.§7-2201
D.C. Code Ann.§7-2301 (1)*
District of Columbia response plan
D.C. Code Ann.§7-2301 (1A)
Emergency operations plan
D.C. Code Ann.§7-2301 (1)*
Health care provider
D.C. Code Ann.§7-2301 (1B)
D.C. Code Ann. §22-3152 (5)
D.C. Code Ann.§7-2301 (3)
D.C. Code Ann.§7-2301 (4)
D.C. Code Ann.§7-2332
Toxic or poisonous chemical
D.C. Code Ann. §22-3152 (9)
D.C. Code Ann. §22-3152 (10)
Unit of government
D.C. Code Ann. §22.3152 (11)
Weapon of mass destruction
D.C. Code Ann. §22.3152 (12)
*Note: Same citation number used in amendment for communicable disease that had previously been used for
emergency operations plan.
For Further Research
The citations noted above and other elements of the code for the District of
Columbia may be searched at: [http://dccode.westgroup.com/home/dccodes/default.wl].