Order Code RS21941
September 22, 2004
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Washington 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 and the director of the state of Washington’s Emergency
Management Division are authorized to carry out state programs, coordinate with local
governments and serve as liaison with federal and other state governments. The
emergency management council conducts an annual state emergency preparedness
assessment. Special accounts have been established in the state treasury for natural
disasters; in addition, funds in these accounts may be used for national security
preparedness. The statutory code contains provisions related to search and rescue and
pipeline safety. If the governor is unable to fulfill the duties of the office, legislative
leaders are to assume the role, or legislators may elect an acting governor. The location
of the capital may be moved if 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
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Entities with Key Responsibilities
Governor: The governor exercises general supervision and control of emergency
management activities and is authorized to: make, amend, or rescind orders, rules,
regulations; enter into mutual aid agreements with states, territories and Canadian
provinces; coordinate interjurisdictional mutual aid agreements among units of local
government; and cooperate with FEMA (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.050). The governor
is authorized to use the services, equipment, supplies, and facilities of state departments
and agencies, as well as department officers and personnel; “command the service and
equipment” of citizens as deemed necessary for a disaster, with citizens commandeered
under this authority entitled to benefits and immunities accorded to registered emergency
workers (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.110).
Adjutant General/Director: The adjutant general also serves as director of emergency
management (DEM) and is responsible to the governor for carrying out the state
emergency management program. The DEM: coordinates activities of all state
emergency management organizations; maintains liaison and cooperates with other state
emergency management agencies and the federal government; develops and maintains the
comprehensive all-hazard emergency plan, which must include an analysis of natural,
technological and human-caused hazards; develops procedures to coordinate local
resources and state agencies during emergencies; procures supplies and equipment;
establishes training and public information programs; mobilizes trained and equipped
emergency management personnel; and studies and surveys industries, resources and
facilities to determine emergency management capabilities (Wash. Rev. Code
State military department: The department is responsible for administering the state
comprehensive emergency management program (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.005).
Emergency management council: The council is comprised of 17 members appointed
by the governor and includes representatives from cities and counties, fire and police
departments, local emergency management agencies, search and rescue teams, emergency
medical care units, building inspection agencies, and the private sector. The council
advises the governor and director on state and local emergency management issues and
conducts an annual assessment of state emergency preparedness, especially in the areas
of hazard mitigation, seismic safety improvements, and flood hazard reduction (Wash.
Rev. Code §38.52.040). The council is also authorized to advise the director on
communications and warning systems and facilities (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.030 (6)).
State coordinators for radioactive and hazardous waste emergency response
programs: The coordinators assess the needs and capabilities of state and local
radiological and hazardous waste emergency response teams, coordinate training
programs to update skills in mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery, and
participate in federal emergency management training programs. (Wash. Rev. Code
Political subdivisions: Units of local government are authorized to establish local
emergency management organizations or serve as members of joint local organizations
for emergency management (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.070). Political subdivisions may
make appropriations for emergency management and may accept equipment, supplies,
material, and funds from the federal government or a person, firm or corporation (Wash.
Rev. Code §38.52.100). Each political subdivision’s chief law enforcement officer is
responsible for local search and rescue efforts. Local emergency management directors
must notify DEM of all search and rescue missions, and the local emergency management
director must coordinate such operations (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.400).
Local comprehensive emergency management plans must be submitted to the state
director, and officials must “secure” the resultant recommendations. Plans must use the
incident command system for multijurisdictional operations (including rescues), but
cannot be required to provide for the emergency relocation of residents “in anticipation
of nuclear attack” (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.070, 400).
Actions taken in the state emergency operations center (EOC), administered by
DEM, are to be guided during an emergency by the state comprehensive emergency
management plan. All “appropriate” state agencies are to be represented in the EOC
(Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.030 (3)).
The director and the state coordinator of the enhanced 911 system are to develop,
implement, and operate the statewide network (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.030 (7)).
The state coordinator of search and rescue operations is authorized to coordinate the
state resources, services, and facilities required by political subdivisions to support search
and rescue operations (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.030 (8)).
DEM, in consultation with other state agencies, is to assist in developing a model
contingency plan for emergency response capabilities and training related to pollution
control facilities and hazardous waste management (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.420).
The DEM, with the concurrence of the governor, may reach agreement with federal
officials on an emergency management plan applicable to a federally-owned area (Wash.
Rev. Code §38.52.170).
The Chief of the State Patrol, in consultation with state officials, evaluates the
preparedness of first responders, assesses the equipment needed to meet emergency
management demands associated with pipelines, develop curricula, and administers the
incident command system (Wash. Rev. Code §48.48.160).
See also “Entities with Key Responsibilities,” — Director.
No specific provisions
Types of Assistance
The DEM administers a state program for emergency assistance to victims of natural,
technological or human-caused disasters. The program may be integrated into and
coordinated with federal assistance plans and programs that aid political subdivisions.
The program may include services, equipment, supplies, material, and funds in the form
of gifts, grants, or loans (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.030 (9)).
Search and rescue funds may be expended by the state for compensation and the
costs of food, lodging, and transportation (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.410).
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact is codified (Wash. Rev. Code
§38.10.010 et seq).
Directors of local emergency management are authorized to develop mutual aid
agreements, and the adjutant general is authorized to enter into mutual aid agreements
with other states (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.091).
The statute created a disaster response account in the state treasury, funds for which
may be derived from state or federal appropriations or any lawful source. Funds may be
spent only after they are appropriated, and may be used only for the support of state and
local government disaster response and recovery efforts, or for national security
preparedness activities (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.105).
DEM is authorized to require political subdivisions to provide matching funds for
project uses or activities (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.160).
The Nisqually earthquake account was created by statute; it is funded from tax
revenues, budget transfers, state and federal appropriations, gifts or any lawful source.
Money in the account could only be used to support state or local government disaster
response and recovery associated with Nisqually earthquake of 2001. During the fiscal
years 2003 - 2005 the legislature is authorized to transfer funds from this account to fire
suppression and national security preparedness (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.106).
See “Entities with Key Responsibilities,” — Emergency management council.
Continuity of Government Operations
In the event of an attack that reduces the number of legislators available for duty,
those legislators available for duty constitute a quorum. The governor is empowered to
call the legislature into session as soon as possible, “in any case” within 30 days after an
attack begins. If the governor fails to call the session, on the 30th day the legislature is to
automatically convene where governor has his office (Wash. Rev. Code §42.14.030).
Continuity of Government Act: All state officers are to designate between three and
seven emergency interim successors and identify their order of succession. Successors
are authorized to perform appropriate duties until the governor appoints a successor to fill
the vacancy and an election is held. County officers also designate emergency interim
successors; the statute establishes oath requirements and compensation provisions (Wash.
Rev. Code §38-3-50 (b)-(h)).
The state constitution provides for a line of succession for the governor (Wash.
Constitution, Article 3, Section 10).
Continuity of Government During Emergency Periods: The legislature is authorized
to enact legislation for the succession of powers and duties of public officers (Wash.
Constitution, Art. II, §42). The governor may call the legislature into emergency session
in an alternative location if necessary due to enemy attack or natural disaster; the
legislature is authorized to establish a temporary emergency seat of government (Wash.
Rev. Code §42.14.035). In the event an attack reduces the number of county
commissioners available for duty, those available may exercise the full authority of the
board (Wash. Rev. Code §42.14.040). Similar authority is extended to city or town
councils or commissions if executive heads are unavailable due to enemy attack (Wash.
Rev. Code §42.14.050). If the mayor, manager, or chief executive officer of a city is
unavailable due to enemy attack, the successor shall be selected in compliance with
Continuity of Government Act (Wash. Rev. Code §35A.42.030).
The state coroner or medical examiner is authorized to issue a certificate of
presumed death when a person dies as result of a natural disaster, if it is unlikely that the
body will be recovered (Wash. Rev. Code §70.58.390).
“No organization for emergency management established under the authority of this
chapter shall participate in any form of political activity,” nor can it be used for such
purposes (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.120).
Civil service employees on leave of absence, and on duty with any emergency
management agency, retain their status for seniority and retirement (Wash. Rev. Code
The statute provides exclusive remedies for emergency workers’ injuries or deaths
arising from work requirements (Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.190 et seq.).
The statute provides liability protection for the owner of a shelter for any injuries
sustained by persons occupying the shelter; liability for property damage, injury, or death
of a person (except an emergency worker) and is the obligation of the state (Wash. Rev.
Code §38.52.180). Other provisions address liability protection regarding construction
equipment or work, architects and engineers, and mine rescue operations (Wash. Rev.
Code §38.52.190 - 198).
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Terms Defined in Washington Statutes, with Citations
Wash. Rev. Code §42.14.010 (2)
Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.010 (6)
Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.010 (1)
Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.010 (12)
Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.010 (4)
Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.010 (8)
Expense of an emergency response
Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.010 (13)
Incident command system
Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.010 (15)
Local organization for emergency
Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.010 (2)
Search and rescue
Wash. Rev. Code §38.52.010 (7)
Wash. Rev. Code §70.74.285
For Further Research
The citations noted above and other elements of the state code for Washington may
be searched at [http://www.leg.wa.gov/rcw/index.cfm].