Order Code RS21873
June 24, 2004
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Rhode Island 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
Rhode Island’s emergency management statute sets forth the roles of the governor,
state agencies, and local governments in disaster prevention, preparation, response and
recovery. The statute authorizes, and provides for, the coordination of emergency
management activities by state agencies and officers. A constitutional provision
authorizes the General Assembly to provide for succession and to ensure the continuity
of government operations. The seat of state and local government may be moved to
emergency temporary locations when necessary.
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 governor is authorized to issue, amend or rescind executive orders,
proclamations, and regulations related to emergency management; cooperate with federal
authorities and governors or other officials of other states; prepare a comprehensive plan
and program for disasters (including response and recovery) that is coordinated with the
plans of other states to the fullest possible extent; and coordinate disaster plans made by
political subdivisions. Other authorized tasks include: procuring supplies and equipment;
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
instituting training and public information programs; mobilizing disaster organizations
in advance of a disaster; and ensuring that adequately trained and equipped disaster
personnel are available (R.I. Gen. Laws §30-15-7 (1-2), (4-5)).
During disaster emergencies the governor may: suspend the provisions of any
regulatory statute, order, rule, or regulation, if strict compliance would impede necessary
action; use all available resources; transfer the direction, personnel, or functions of state
departments and agencies; commandeer or utilize any private property; compel the
evacuation of all or part of the population from any stricken or threatened area; control
ingress to and egress from a high risk area; suspend specified commercial activities; and
make provision for the availability and use of temporary emergency shelters. Cities and
towns are to be reimbursed by the state out of the general fund for all expenses incurred
for the use of personnel or equipment. Whenever, due to a disaster, there will likely be
a serious shortage in the supply of any necessity of life or defense, and federal authorities
are not adequately dealing with the situation, the governor may regulate the sale,
purchase, or distribution of necessities and prohibit wasting, hoarding or profiteering (R.I.
Gen. Laws §30-15-9(e)(1-10)).
Emergency Management Advisory Council: The council is authorized to: advise the
governor and adjutant general on all disaster preparedness matters; review emergency
management plans; establish priorities and goals on an annual basis; review the
coordination of state programs with appropriate authorized agencies; and review local
disaster preparedness plans (R.I. Gen. Laws §30-15-6).
Emergency management preparedness agency: The agency, headed by the adjutant
general, coordinates activities of all organizations for disasters and maintains liaison with
disaster agencies of other states and the federal government (R.I. Gen. Laws §30-15-5).
Local emergency management agency: Each city and town is required to establish
an emergency management agency similar to the state agency. Local agencies must
cooperate with and assist the state agency and perform such services as may be requested,
and may act jointly with other agencies. The chief executive officer of each city or town
may exercise emergency management duties similar to those of the governor (R.I. Gen.
Laws §30-15-12 (a-b)).
State radiation control agency: The director of health must designate a unit within
the department of health to be the state radiation control agency. Whenever the state
radiological emergency response plan is implemented, the agency acts as principal advisor
to the governor or authorized representative regarding the degree of potential hazard to
the state’s population as well as types of actions to be taken to protect the health and
safety of the public (R.I. Gen. Laws §23-1.3-2).
The statute directs the state archivist to submit and annually update a disaster
preparedness plan for the state archives. The plan must be filed with the secretary of
state, department of state library services, and the general assembly. (R.I. Gen. Laws §428.1-5(13)).
See “Entities with Key Responsibilities” — Governor, Emergency management
The governor is authorized to declare a state of emergency by executive order or
proclamation if a disaster has occurred or is imminent. The state of disaster emergency
continues until the threat or danger has passed. A state of disaster emergency may not
continue for longer than 30 days unless renewed by the governor. The General Assembly,
by concurrent resolution, may terminate a state of disaster emergency at any time. Such
an executive order or proclamation activates state and local disaster emergency plans and
serves as the authority for the deployment and use of any forces and the use or distribution
of any supplies, equipment, materials and facilities (R.I. Gen. Laws §30-15-9(b-d)).
A local disaster emergency may be declared only by the principal executive officer
of a political subdivision and cannot be continued or renewed for a period in excess of
seven days, except by or with the consent of the governing board of the political
subdivision. Such a declaration activates the mitigation response and recovery aspects
of the local disaster emergency plans and authorizes the furnishing of aid and assistance
(R.I. Gen. Laws §30-15-13(a-b)).
The governor is authorized to designate as a special emergency health and sanitation
area any such area seriously damaged by a disaster (R.I. Gen. Laws §30-15-9(e)(11)).
Types of Assistance
During a declared disaster emergency the governor may purchase, lease, or make
other arrangements with any federal agency for temporary housing units for disaster
victims, and may make such units available to any political subdivision. The governor
is authorized to help local governments acquire sites, and suspend or modify, for not more
than 60 days, any public health, safety, zoning, transportation or other requirement of law
when essential to provide temporary housing for victims. The statute authorizes political
subdivisions to acquire sites required for the installation of temporary housing units for
disaster victims, and to enter into arrangements necessary to prepare those sites for
housing units. The statute does not limit the governor’s ability to apply for any grants,
gifts, or payments for disaster prevention, preparedness, response, or recovery (R.I. Gen.
Laws §30-15.6 et seq).
During a declared disaster emergency the governor is authorized to accept federal
funds for individual or family expenses or serious needs that cannot be adequately met by
other means of assistance. The governor may pledge the state to provide funding (up to
25% of costs), and, if state funds are not otherwise available, to accept an advance of the
state share from the federal government to be repaid when the state is able to do so. The
statute limits the amount of the grant that may be awarded, allows the General Assembly
to appropriate sums out of the general treasury, and directs the governor to make
necessary regulations for standards of eligibility for benefits as well as procedures for
grant applications (R.I. Gen. Laws §30-15.7 et. seq.).
During a declared disaster emergency the governor may order debris and wreckage
removal from publicly or privately owned land or water. The statute authorizes
acceptance of federal funds, and requires that political subdivisions, corporations,
organizations, or individuals must give unconditional authorization and, in the case of
private property, indemnify the state against claims arising from debris and wreckage
removal (R.I. Gen. Laws Chapter §30-15.4).
The Interstate Emergency Management and Disaster Compact is codified (R.I. Gen.
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact is codified (R.I. Gen. Laws
A governor may enter into an agreement with any bordering state pledging
participation in a mutual aid plan in the event of a disaster. The agreement may be
activated only when the governor or the President has declared a disaster in the state or
a bordering state. With the approval of the local council a city or town police chief may
enter into agreements with other cities or towns adjacent to the state to provide mutual aid
and assistance for all police services. The governor may suspend such agreements in the
interest of public safety (R.I. Gen. Laws Chapter §30-15.8 et seq.).
The president of the senate, the speaker of the house, and the chairs of the senate and
house finance committees comprise the disaster emergency funding board. In the event
of an emergency the first recourse is to funds regularly appropriated to state and local
agencies. If funding needs for a particular disaster require, the governor may make funds
available — with the concurrence of the funding board — by transferring moneys
appropriated for other purposes, or may borrow from the federal government or any
private source for no more than two years. The governor may apply for and expend any
grants, gifts, or payments, in aid of disaster prevention, preparedness, response, or
recovery (R.I. Gen. Laws §30-15-10).
An emergency claims commission consisting of three qualified electors of the state
appointed within 10 days after the governor proclaims an emergency determines the
amount to be provided in compensation for property taken. Whenever the governor takes
possession of real or personal property pursuant to the statute, the commission must be
notified. The statute provides for an appeals process if awards made by the commission
do not meet the property owner’s or the state attorney general’s expectations (R.I. Gen.
During a declared disaster emergency the governor is authorized to apply to the
federal government for aid on behalf of a local government. The governor is authorized
to determine the amount needed by any applicant local government to restore or resume
its governmental functions, and to certify that amount to the federal government. Such
amount is limited to 25% of the annual operating budget of the applicant for the fiscal
year in which the major disaster occurs. The governor may recommend cancellation of
all or any part of repayment when the local government is unable to meet operating
expenses (R.I. Gen. Laws Chapter §30-15.5).
The statute established an environmental response fund as a separate fund within the
general fund to consist of any appropriated sums or those recovered by any fines brought
for environmental violations. Funds are to be used for various levels of environmental
responses, including waste disposal or spill response, analysis, containment, and cleanup,
and temporary resident relocation during emergency response activities (R.I. Gen. Laws
The governor is to consider steps that could be taken to prevent or reduce the
harmful consequences of disasters and direct appropriate state agencies to make studies
of disaster prevention-related matters. The governor may make recommendations to the
General Assembly, local governments, and other appropriate public and private entities
to facilitate measures for mitigation of the harmful consequences of disasters (R.I. Gen.
Laws §30-15-7 (3)).
Continuity of Government Operations
Whenever, due to an actual or impending disaster, it becomes imprudent,
inexpedient, or impossible to conduct state government at the normal location, the
governor declares an emergency temporary location for the seat of government, within or
without the state, and issues orders necessary for an orderly transition of the affairs of
state government to that location. That location remains the seat of government until the
General Assembly establishes a new location by law, or until the emergency is declared
to be ended by the governor (R.I. Gen. Laws Chapter §30-15.1).
Whenever, due to an actual or impending disaster, it becomes imprudent or
impossible to conduct local government at its regular location, the governing body may
be called to establish an emergency temporary location of government, within or without
the state (R.I. Gen. Laws Chapter §30-15.2).
During an emergency caused by enemy attack the General Assembly has the power
to provide for temporary succession to the powers and duties of public offices, and may
convene at any place within or without the state. The Assembly may adopt other
measures as may be necessary to insure the continuity of governmental operations.
During the period of emergency the General Assembly has the power to incur state debts
exceeding standard constitutional limitations. The statute limits these powers and any
laws enacted during the emergency two years following the inception of an enemy attack
(R.I. Constitution, Article VI, Section 21).
The governor or designated representative is authorized to create mobile support
units as necessary to reinforce disaster organizations in stricken areas and appoint a
commander for each unit. Mobile support units are called to duty by the governor and
perform their functions in any part of the state or, under certain conditions, in other states
(R.I. Gen. Laws §30-15-8).
The school committee of each town, city, and regional school department must adopt
a comprehensive school safety plan regarding crisis intervention, emergency response,
and management. The plan must include policies and procedures for responding to bomb
threats, hostage-takings, intrusions, kidnappings and other school violence, and the
establishment of internal and external communication systems in emergencies (R.I. Gen.
Laws §16-21-23 to 24).
Members of disaster response forces who are killed or sustain disability or injury
while in training for, or on, disaster response duty are construed to be employees of the
state and compensated in the same manner as state employees (R.I. Gen. Laws §28-3112). Sums payable by the federal government as compensation for death, disability, or
injury of disaster response workers are to be considered when determining the settlement
of any claim (R.I. Gen. Laws §28-31-14).
Any state employee who is a certified disaster service volunteer may be granted up
to 10 days of leave per year to participate in specialized disaster relief services for the
American Red Cross, without loss of pay, vacation time, sick leave or earned overtime
accumulation. The statute provides for compensation at the employee’s regular rate of
pay (R.I. Gen. Laws §28-49-1, 3).
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Terms Defined in Rhode Island Statutes, with Citations
R.I. Gen. Laws §30-15-3 (1), §28-49-2
R.I. Gen. Laws §30-15.6-5
R.I. Gen. Laws §30-15.6-5
R.I. Gen. Laws §30-15.6-5
For Further Research
The citations noted above and other elements of the state code for Rhode Island
may be searched at: [http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/Statutes.html].