Order Code RS21940
September 22, 2004
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Vermont 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
Vermont addresses emergencies and disasters through two statutes. The Civil
Defense Act created the state Emergency Management Division, and gives the governor
emergency powers, authorizes the rendering of mutual aid, and declares that all
emergency management functions be coordinated with the federal government. The
Internal Security and Public Safety Act provides for a declaration of a state of
emergency and activation of an emergency disaster preparedness plan for the state and
counties. Financial and other aid is provided by the state emergency relief and assistance
fund, and through grants and loans from both federal and private sources. The governor
is authorized to declare a state of emergency, and the state emergency board and local
legislative boards may vote to terminate emergencies.
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 is authorized to: exercise general control over the
Emergency Management Division (EMD); make, amend, and rescind necessary orders,
rules, and regulations to carry out emergency management provisions; prepare a plan and
program for civil defense; coordinate emergency management with cities and towns;
inventory and plan for the needs of municipalities; prepare for civil defense organization
mobilization; consider and cooperate with federal officials and plans for civil defense
matters; and, institute training and educational programs (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §8).
Additional emergency powers include leasing, lending, and contracting for real or
personal property; providing for the temporary transfers of state, local, and military
employees; and seizing or taking food, fuel, clothing medicines, transportation, buildings
and to provide compensation for seized property (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §11). Powers
granted to the governor after issuance of a proclamation of a state of emergency include
enforcing laws, formulating plans and necessary regulations, cooperating with federal
government, and ordering evacuations if needed (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §9).
Emergency Board: The statute established the board, the membership of which
consists of the governor (who serves as chair) and legislative leaders. The board is
authorized to make expenditures for unforeseen emergencies, and may borrow funds on
the state’s credit (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 32, §131).
Emergency Management Division: The statute created the EMD within the
Department of Public Safety. EMD officials are responsible for coordinating the activities
of all emergency management organizations within the state, preparation of the
radiological emergency response plan, and liaison with other states and federal emergency
management agencies (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §3).
Emergency Management Districts: The statute required the governor to divide the
state into a maximum of 10 districts. Each district is headed by a coordinator, who is
responsible for preparing and maintaining a hazardous material response plan (Ver. Stat.
Ann. tit. 20, §5).
Local Organization for Emergency Management: Local organizations are to carry
out emergency management responsibilities within their town or city limits, and
participate in the development of a hazardous chemical incident response plan with the
appropriate local emergency planning committees and emergency management districts
(Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §6 (a)).
Towns, cities: The statute authorizes units of local government to make orders, rules,
and regulations for emergency management purposes that are not inconsistent with rules
issued by the governor or state agencies (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §16).
Civil Defense Department: The department is to be established by the governor upon
finding that a “war emergency” exists, with the concurrence of the state emergency
management board.1 In such an event, the authorities of the emergency management
division are to be transferred to the civil defense department (Ver. State. Ann. tit. 20,
Auxiliary state police: The auxiliary force can be trained to assist state police during
an emergency (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §27).
State Emergency Response Commission (SERC): The statute created the commission
and assigned duties related to planning for and response to hazardous material incidents
(Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §§30,31).
Local Emergency Planning Committees: The statute created the committee and
assigned duties related to hazardous material incidents (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §32).
Regional Emergency Response Commissions: The statute authorized the SERC to
create the number of commissions deemed necessary to assist regional emergency
management response efforts related to hazardous material incidents (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit.
The commissioner of public safety for the state is authorized to establish mobile
support units to augment emergency management operations in disaster-stricken areas
(Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §7).
Citizens, sheriffs, constables, and police officers may be trained as auxiliary state
police to assist with emergency management tasks (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §27).
State health department officials are directed to plan for and develop a
comprehensive emergency management medical program to protect and assist in
emergencies or natural disasters (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §28).
In the event of a disaster, radiological or hazardous chemical incident, or enemy
attack “upon the United States or Canada,” the governor may proclaim a state of
emergency (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §9).
In order for the “natural disaster” provisions of the statute to apply, municipal
authorities must request that the governor issue a state of emergency for a natural disaster
(Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §10).
Note that this and other provisions of the Vermont statute, refer to the emergency management
board. Authority for the board (previously codified at Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §4) was, however,
repealed in 1996.
The governor, with the concurrence of the emergency management board, may
terminate a state of emergency in any area by motion or upon receiving notice of a
municipal legislative body vote (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §§13, 14).2
Types of Assistance
The governor is authorized to purchase or lease temporary housing, to provide those
housing units to local governments, and to help local governments acquire sites for such
housing (Ver. Stat. Ann., tit. 20, §34).
The statute authorizes the governor to use state agencies to remove debris and
wreckage from public or private lands (Ver. Stat. Ann., tit. 20, §36).
The governor is authorized to accept federal grants after a disaster, provide a state
match of 25% for federal grants, and to make financial grants to individuals, to a
maximum of $5,000, to meet disaster-related necessary expenses (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20,
The emergency board is authorized to make such expenditures from the emergency
relief and assistance fund as are necessary to match requirements for federal grants and
low interest loans and grants to municipalities. The board may approve expenditures of
up to $1 million to avert an emergency or transfer up to 2% of the general fund budget
stabilization reserve for emergency relief assistance. The secretary of administration is
to submit an annual report of expenditures for disaster relief and assistance to the General
Assembly (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §45).3
The disaster relief workers fund may be used to pay a reimbursement to employers
for disaster relief services rendered by employees volunteering with the American Red
Cross for a maximum period of 14 days (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §46).
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact is codified (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20,
§101 et seq).
The governor is authorized to enter into reciprocal aid agreements and pursue
compacts with other states and the federal government (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §8(7)).
The governor can sponsor, develop, and approve mutual aid plans and agreements
for cities and towns (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §8(8)).
Refer to footnote 1 with reference to the emergency management board.
Note that the “emergency board” referred to in this section is authorized to be established at
Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 32, §131.
When mobile support units from other states render aid, the state is authorized to
provide reimbursement for travel, subsistence and maintenance expenses, plus death or
disability, and to replace losses or damages to supplies and equipment (Ver. Stat. Ann.
tit. 20, §7 (d)).
The governor is prohibited from sending mobile support units to other states that lack
similar mutual aid agreements (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §7(e)).
The governor is authorized to provide “mutual-military aid,” disaster relief, hazard
mitigation, and related assistance to other states (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §151).
Offers of federal or private aid (services, equipment, supplies, materials or funds)
may be accepted by the governor or specified officers or political subdivisions, and
received by specified officers (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §17).
The statute established the radiological emergency response fund for planning
activities associated with radiological incidents. Persons involved in moving or storing
hazardous substances must pay specified fees to the hazardous chemical and substance
emergency response fund (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §38, 39).
State emergency management appropriations may be used to match federal money
for civil defense and emergency management (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §25).
The governor is authorized to apply for and disburse federal loans on behalf of local
governments, limited to 25% of the annual operating budget, and may recommend
cancellation of repayment when there are insufficient revenues (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20,
See “Mutual Aid,” above.
Continuity of Government Operations
In the event of an attack, the continuity of state government is assured through
legally constituted leadership, authority, and responsibility in state government offices and
political subdivisions. The statute establishes the order of succession for the governor;
state officers are required to designate interim successors. The statute also addresses
matters related to local officers, emergency judges, training, specified periods of authority,
removal, and resolution of disputes (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §181 et seq).
If there is an attack on the United States or Canada, civil action or criminal
prosecution may be transferred to unaffected counties or territorial units (Ver. Stat. Ann.
tit. 20, §26).
If real or personal property valued at more than $500 has been acquired for purposes
of emergency management, the governor is authorized to offer its return to the owner at
fair market value (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §15).
Emergency management staff must take an oath of allegiance (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20,
Town or city employees rendering aid outside their host territory have the same
powers, duties, immunities as they have when operating within their jurisdiction;
emergency management employees have immunity from liability (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20,
Compensation is authorized to be provided for the death or injury of emergency
management workers (Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §21).
Any person owning real estate who voluntarily and without compensation allows the
property to be used for sheltering purposes during an enemy attack or drill is not civilly
liable for the death or injury to a person, or loss or damage to property (Ver. Stat. Ann.
tit. 20, §29).
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Terms Defined in Vermont Statutes, with Citations
Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §182 (4)
Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §2 (4)
Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §2 (2)
Emergency interim successor
Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §182 (2)
Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §2 (3)
Hazardous chemical or substance
Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §2 (5)
Hazardous chemical or substance incident
Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §2 (6)
Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §2 (7)
Ver. Stat. Ann. tit. 20, §182 (1)
For Further Research
The citations noted above and other parts of the state code for Vermont may be
searched at [http://188.8.131.52/vermont/lpext.dll?f=templates&fn=fs-main.htm&2.0].