Order Code RS21879
July 2, 2004
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Wisconsin 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 of Wisconsin is responsible for state emergency management
activities, and the adjutant general serves as the lead administrator. The adjutant general
is authorized to refuse to provide grants to units of local governments until emergency
management plans are implemented and updated. Dependents of employees or
volunteers who die in service during a state of emergency are eligible for death benefits.
“Responsible persons” (including the federal government) are liable for harm caused by
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
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Entities with Key Responsibilities
Governor: The governor reviews orders that establish and alter “emergency
management areas,” reviews state emergency management plans, and employs the state
Division of Emergency Management (DEM) during a state of emergency. During an
emergency the governor issues orders, determines the responsibility of state departments
and agencies, and directs them to use staff, facilities, supplies, equipment. The governor:
determines the priority of emergency management contracts; allocates material and
facilities; takes, uses, or destroys private property for emergency management purposes
(with actions recorded if needed for later claims charged against the state); issues orders
for the security of people and property; contracts with any person to provide equipment
and services for disaster relief; and suspends rules during a public health emergency if
strict compliance would affect emergency response and increase the threat to public health
(Wis. Stat.§166.03 (1)).
Adjutant general: The adjutant general develops and promulgates a state emergency
management plan for the security of persons and property — subject to the governor’s
approval and in consultation with the Department of Health and Family Services (HFS).
The plan is mandatory during a state of emergency and must include standards for
equipment and personnel, and require the use and specification of the “incident command
system.” The statute directs the adjutant general to establish a statewide training program
and exercises, disseminate information (including information on “enemy action”), and
serve as primary assistant to the governor in the direction of emergency management
activities and the coordination of emergency management among counties. The adjutant
general: provides guidance and standards for counties, towns, municipalities, and
emergency management programs; may withhold or recover grants pursuant to the statute;
and provides assistance to the civil air patrol. If HFS is not the lead agency in a public
health emergency, the adjutant general must submit a report to the legislature and
governor. The adjutant general: divides the state into emergency management areas (by
county) and appoints agency heads; designates highway routes for emergency
management that can be closed to all but emergency vehicles for training and exercises;
prescribes traffic routes during a state of emergency; organizes and trains mobile support
units; asks HFS to inspect radiological waste shipments; assesses and collects
contributions for costs to establish and maintain radiological emergency response plans;
pays the state’s share of grants to individuals; and provides the state share of contributions
to local governments for major disaster recovery assistance (Wis. Stat.§166.03 (2)).
Department of Health and Family Services (HFS): The department consults with the
adjutant general about emergency medical aspects of the state emergency management
plan (Wis. Stat.§166.03 (2)).
Area head: “Area heads of emergency management” exercise the powers and duties
delegated and assigned by the adjutant general (Wis. Stat.§166.03 (3)).
Governing body of county, town, municipality: Governing bodies adopt emergency
management programs consistent with the state emergency management plans and, except
for counties with county executives, appoint administrators of emergency management
services. Governing bodies are authorized to appropriate funds and levy taxes for their
emergency management program (Wis. Stat.§166.03 (4)).
Political subdivisions: Governing bodies of political subdivisions adopt emergency
management programs consistent with the state plan. Counties with county executives
designate emergency management committees with policy and rule-making powers for
emergency management plans and programs (Wis. Stat. §166.03 (4)).
Head of emergency management services: In each county, town, and municipality
the official designated as the head of services develops and promulgates emergency
management plans consistent with the state plan, directs the local program, and performs
other related duties. The heads of services in towns and municipalities must coordinate
and assist in developing plans within their jurisdictions and integrate them with county
plans and submit reports to the adjutant general. Heads of services are also responsible
for directing training and participation in exercises (Wis. Stat.§166.03 (5)).
Local emergency planning committee (LEPC): Each county board creates an LEPC
pursuant to federal statute (42 USC 11001), submits an annual list of LEPC members to
the state, appropriates funds for committee operations, and implements a training program
to prepare for the accidental release of hazardous substances (Wis. Stat.§59.54 (8)).
An emergency planning grant program helps communities prepare hazardous
material response plans (Wis. Stat.§166.21).
See also “Entities with Key Responsibilities.”
The governor may proclaim a state of emergency for the state, or a portion of the
state. Such a proclamation must state whether the emergency results from enemy action,
natural, or a man-made disaster. If a public health emergency exists, the governor may
declare that a public health state of emergency exists and designates HFS as the lead
agency. A state of emergency cannot exceed 60 days if caused by enemy action or 30
days if caused by a natural or man-made disaster, unless extended by joint resolution of
the legislature. The declaration may be revoked at the discretion of the governor by
written order or by joint legislative resolution (Wis. Stat.§166.03 (b) 1).
The governing bodies of cities, villages, and towns may declare an emergency by
ordinance or resolution when conditions of war, flood, heavy snow storm, blizzard,
disaster, riot, acts of God, or other causes impair transportation, food, fuel, medical care,
first responders, and other vital facilities. The period of emergency is to be limited to the
time that emergency conditions exist. During an emergency, governing bodies may
prohibit traffic on local highways and establish penalties. If a governing body is unable
to promptly meet, the chief executive officer is authorized to proclaim all powers needed.
Such a proclamation may be ratified, altered or repealed by the governing body when it
meets (Wis. Stat.§166.23).
Types of Assistance
The state Department of Workforce Development is authorized to administer disaster
unemployment assistance when it is made available by the President under the Robert T.
Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5121) (Wis. Stat.
The governor is authorized to enter the state into emergency mutual aid agreements
with other states (Wis. Stat.§166.03 (b)2).
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact is codified (Wis. Stat.§166.30).
The governor is authorized to accept or authorize a state agency, county, or town to
accept gifts and grants for emergency management purposes (Wis. Stat.§166.03 (b) 3).
No specific provisions.
Continuity of Government Operations
During a state of emergency the governor designates an emergency temporary
location for the seat of government when required and provides for an orderly transition.
The temporary seat of government remains in use until the governor establishes a new
location, or until the emergency ends and the seat of government returns to its normal
location. All acts completed by officials at the temporary seat of government are valid
(Wis. Stat. §166.05).
A local government body of a county, town, or municipality may move to a
temporary seat of government within or without the territorial limits on the call of the
presiding officer. The governing body may establish substitute sites by ordinance (Wis.
The governing body of a unit of local government may enact ordinances for the
continuity of government in the event a state of emergency occurs from enemy attack
(Wis. Stat. §166.07).
The public records board is charged with establishment of a system to preserve
essential public records for the continuity of government in the event of an enemy attack,
natural, or man-made disaster. Each department is to preserve essential records. The
board advises political subdivisions with regard to the establishment of such a system
(Wis. Stat. §166.10).
Political subdivisions of a specified size are required to install a teletypewriter in the
sheriff’s department to receive calls from hearing or speech impaired persons seeking
emergency services (Wis. Stat.§59.54 (5)).
The adjutant general may refuse to approve grant applications if a political
subdivision does not comply with requirements to establish or maintain an emergency
management organization. If grants or equipment are improperly used, the general may
refuse to make additional grants until the political subdivision is in compliance with the
previous grant (Wis. Stat.§166.03 (13)).
The dependents of employees or volunteers who sustain fatal injuries during a state
of emergency are eligible to receive death benefits (Wis. Stat.§102.475).
Persons or organizations, including the federal government, are liable for nuclear
incidents resulting from a release from a nuclear waste repository (Wis. Stat. §166.15).
A public health authority can issue and enforce orders to provide for the reasonable
and safe disposal of human remains when the governor issues a public health state of
emergency (Wis. Stat.§157.055).
Any person may operate a vehicle without regard to motor vehicle registration laws
and without fear of arrest in response to an official request during a state of emergency
(Wis. Stat.§166.03 (6)).
Emergency management staff cannot participate in political activity, interfere with
a labor dispute, or personally advocate the use of force or violence to change the federal
or state government (Wis. Stat.§166.03 (8)).
A person who provides equipment or services at the direction of the governor, the
adjutant general, or the head of emergency management services during a state of
emergency, is exempt from liability for death or injury to a person or damage to property
(excludes gross negligence) (Wis. Stat.§166.03 (10)).
During a state of emergency, any peace or traffic officer is authorized to operate
anywhere in the state under the direction of the adjutant general through the appropriate
county sheriff (Wis. Stat.§166.03 (11)).
The statute does not affect the responsibility of the American Red Cross as
authorized by Congress (Wis. Stat.§166.03 (12)).
A person owning real estate who voluntarily and without compensation provides
shelter during a real or practice attack is not liable for death, injury, or loss or damage to
property. However, the person must make known any hidden dangers on the property
(Wis. Stat. §166.09).
A regional emergency response team and others that contract to provide services
have immunity from civil liability (Wis. Stat.§895.483).
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Terms Defined in Wisconsin Statutes, with Citations
Wis. Stat.§166.02 (1g)
Wis. Stat.§166.02 (10)
Wis. Stat. §166.02 (1p)
Wis. Stat.§166.02 (1r)
Wis. Stat.§166.02 (1t)
Wis. Stat.§166.02 (2)
Emergency interim successor
Wis. Stat. §166.08 (2)(b)
Wis. Stat. §166.02 (4)
Wis. Stat. §166.15 (1) (d)
Wis. Stat. §166.02 (5)
Wis. Stat.§166.21 (1)
Wis. Stat.§166.20 (1)(f)
Wis. Stat.§166.20 (1)(fm)
Wis. Stat.§166.20 (1)(g)
Local emergency response team
Wis. Stat.§166.20 (1)(gk)
Public health emergency
Wis. Stat.§166.02 (7)
Wis. Stat.§166.02 (8)
Regional emergency response team
Wis. Stat.§166.20 (1) (im)
For Further Research
The citations noted above and other elements of the state code for Wisconsin may
be searched at: [http://www.legis.state.wi.us/nav/wislaw.htm].