Massachusetts Emergency Management and Homeland Security Authorities Summarized.
CRS Report for Congress
Massachusetts Emergency Management and
Homeland Security Authorities Summarized
March 23, 2004
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Massachusetts Emergency Management and
Homeland Security Authorities Summarized
The Massachusetts statutory code incorporates emergency management with
civil defense authorities. The governor has power to control emergency management
activities, exercise control over private and public resources in a state of emergency,
and enter into agreements with the federal and other state governments. The Defense
Council advises the governor on civil defense matters, and the director of civil
defense is responsible for the state Emergency Management Agency. Political
subdivisions establish local organizations for civil defense. Continuity of
government provisions require state officers and directors to list five persons who can
serve if such a position is vacant due to absence or disability. Funding from the
Commonwealth security trust fund supports emergency response and responding to
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 warrant.
Entities with Key Responsibilities.................................1
Types of Assistance............................................3
Continuity of Government Operations..............................5
For Further Research...........................................7
List of Tables
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland
Security Terms Defined in Massachusetts Statutes, with Citations........7
Massachusetts Emergency Management
and Homeland Security Authorities
Entities with Key Responsibilities
Governor: The governor exercises direction and control of the Emergency
Management Agency (EMA), and is authorized to assume direct control over any or
all parts of civil defense activities. The governor is authorized to: cooperate with the
federal government and other states and private agencies about civil defense matters;
propose a comprehensive plan for civil defense; institute training and public
information programs; take preparatory steps (such as the mobilization of
organizations) in advance of an actual disaster; make studies and surveys of the
Commonwealth’s capabilities for civil defense; and appoint metropolitan area
directors (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §4). After issuing a proclamation of
a state of emergency, the governor may employ every agency and all staff to protect
the lives and property of citizens and to enforce the law. The governor may take
possession of land, building, equipment, vehicles, food sources and sell, lease, or
freely distribute those goods among commonwealth inhabitants, within requirements
set out. (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §5). The governor is authorized to
cooperate with federal authorities and the governors of other states on common
defense and common welfare and to provide for the national defense or public safety
at the request of the President (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §6). During a
state of emergency, the governor shall exercise any and all authority over persons and
property, including inmates at all institutions, public utilities, protection of private
property, means of communications, and transportation, among others (Mass. Ann.
Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §7). The governor is authorized to exercise power in
anticipation of a state of emergency (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §8).
Executive Office of Public Safety: The office includes the department of public
safety and the Massachusetts emergency management agency (Mass. Ann. Laws Ch.
Emergency Commission: When the governor determines an emergency exists,
and that there may be potential shortage of food, fuel, shelter, or other necessities of
life, he may designate in writing the adjutant general, director of civil defense,
secretary of labor, and commissioner of public safety to act as an emergency
commission. The commission is authorized to exercise authorities set out in the
Commonwealth Defense Act, and operates under written designation which may be
revoked by the governor at any time (Mass. Ann. Laws Ch. 23 §9H).
Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency: The agency operates under the
direction of the director of civil defense (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §2).
Defense Council: The governor appoints members of the council, which
includes department heads and other commonwealth officers and the director of
EMA. The council advises the governor and the director of civil defense on matters
pertaining to civil defense (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §3).
Director of civil defense: The director is appointed by the governor with the
advice and consent of the Defense Council. The director coordinates activities of all
organizations for civil defense within the commonwealth, and must cooperate and
maintain liaison with the civil defense agencies of other states and the federal
government. The executive head of the EMA is responsible to the governor for
carrying out the commonwealth’s civil defense program (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L.
Ch. S31 §2).
Civil defense claims board: The board, within EMA, acts upon and decides
claims filed under the Civil Defense Act (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §11A).
Local organization for civil defense: Each political subdivision is authorized to
establish an organization for civil defense, the director of which is to be appointed
by the chief local official. The organization must perform civil defense functions
within its territorial limits and has power to enter into contracts and incur obligations
to combat disasters, protect health and safety of persons and property, and provide
emergency assistance to victims (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §13).
Hazardous materials mitigation emergency response advisory board: The
advisory board reviews standards, rules, procedures and regulations for response and
recovery costs related to hazardous materials (Mass. Ann. Laws Ch. 21K, §2).
In case of a natural disaster or public catastrophe, during which police are
unable to preserve order and protect people and property, the commander-in-chief
(governor) on his or her own initiative, or at the request of a mayor, sheriff, or city
manager, may order the commander of any unit of the national guard to preserve
order (Mass. Ann. Laws Ch. 33 §41).
The colonel of the State Police, at the request of the director of civil defense,
may appoint civil defense employees as special state police officers for a maximum
period of one year. Such officers receive training and have arrest powers (Mass.
Ann. Laws Ch. 22C, §64).
The Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Material Release Prevention and
Response Act establishes requirements and timetables regarding spills and releases
(Mass. Ann. Laws Ch. 21E §1 et seq.).
The civil defense director must establish standards for the construction of fallout
shelters to protect families from enemy attack. Construction must proceed in
accordance with standards and cannot violate zoning ordinances (Mass. Ann. Laws
Spec. L. Ch. S31 §2A).
The statute requires that the state department of fire services prepare and update
a hazardous materials mitigation emergency response plan (Mass. Ann. Laws Ch.
The civil defense director must designate a nuclear power plant area within a 10-
mile radius of each nuclear power plant, and must publish and release annual
preparedness and response plans that include evacuation plans and other emergency
public information. Factors that could require modifications to the plans include
changes in traffic patterns, population densities and new construction (Mass. Ann.
Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §2B).
The governor may issue a proclamation of a state of emergency when he or she
is informed that the commonwealth’s peace and security are endangered by
catastrophes such as an enemy attack on the United States, the occurrence of disasters
resulting from attack, sabotage or hostile act, from fire, flood, earthquake or other
natural causes, or drought. Such a proclamation may also be issued when the health
and safety of the people may be endangered by fire, shortage of food or water, or
when the accidental release of radiation from nuclear power plant could endanger
people (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §5). The governor is authorized to
exercise power during a state of emergency through executive orders or regulations,
and departments must act in conformity with orders or regulations issued by the
governor (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §8). Any laws, regulations, ordinances
inconsistent with an order issued during a state of emergency are inoperative (Mass.
Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §8A).
Types of Assistance
The governor and executive officers or governing bodies of political
subdivisions can use services, equipment, supplies and facilities and staff of existing
departments of the commonwealth and its political subdivisions. The governor may
assign a state agency any activity related to disaster preparedness and relief related
to existing powers and duties; once assigned, it becomes the duty of the agency to
undertake and carry out the activity (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §16).
Police departments in cities and towns can enter into mutual aid agreements
(Mass. Ann. Laws Ch. 40 §8G).
The director of a local organization for civil defense may develop mutual aid
arrangements for reciprocal civil defense aid and assistance in case of a disaster that
requires assistance. Arrangements must be consistent with the state civil defense
plan and program. The statute specifies that it is the duty of a local organization to
render assistance in accord with provisions of mutual aid arrangements. The director,
with the approval of the governor, may enter into mutual aid arrangements with civil
defense agencies in other states (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §14). Cities and
towns may authorize police departments to aid other jurisdictions to suppress civil
disturbances or other violence (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §11(b)). Heads
of police and fire departments may provide services elsewhere in the
Commonwealth, with limits placed on use of auxiliary police (Mass. Ann. Laws
Spec. L. Ch. S31 §11 (c-e)).
The statute requires officers of the state and subdivisions to cooperate with the
governor and the director of civil defense in civil defense matters (Mass. Ann. Laws
Spec. L. Ch. S31 §20).
The Interstate Emergency Management Assistance Compact is codified (Mass.
Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S140 §1).
The International Emergency Management Assistance Compact with Canada
is codified (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S141 §1).
The compact with other New England states for military aid in an emergency
is codified (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S91).
The compact with New York for military aid in an emergency is codified (Mass.
Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S93).
Any municipality, water district, or fire district may contract with another
political subdivision for interconnection of water distribution systems and provide
pumping equipment to supply water for fires and other purposes (Mass. Ann. Laws
Spec. L. Ch. S31 §15C).
The Commonwealth Security Trust Fund is established and funded with
revenues from United We Stand license plates. Some of the funds are to be used for
grants to police and fire departments to enhance emergency response, including
responding to terrorism (Mass. Ann. Laws Ch. S10 §67).
The Department of Fire Services Hazardous Materials Emergency Mitigation
Response Recovery Trust Fund is established to reimburse member departments for
responding to hazardous materials incidents (Mass. Ann. Laws Ch. 29 §2DDD).
The Dam Safety Trust Fund provides funding for the office of dam safety (Mass.
Ann. Laws Ch. 29 §2FFF).
Political subdivisions have the power to make appropriations for civil defense.
If the federal government offers a gift, grant, or loan, either the governor or officials
of the political subdivision may accept the offer (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31
To meet expenditures, a city, town or county may raises taxes or issue bonds for
civil defense (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §15A). A city auditor or financial
official making expenditures for civil defense must file an annual report with the
director of accounts for the state Department of Corporations and Taxation, of
liabilities incurred and expenditures made (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31
EMA may expend appropriated sums to carry out authorized duties (Mass. Ann.
Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §21).
No specific provisions
Continuity of Government Operations
The General Court of the state legislature has full power and authority to
provide for the succession of powers of public offices, especially when incumbents
are unavailable in periods of emergency from disaster caused by enemy attack. The
court may adopt measures necessary and proper to insure the continuity of
government in the commonwealth and its political subdivisions (Mass. Const. Art.
During a state of emergency the administrative justice of any district court may
direct that a district court may be convened in any place outside the district where the
court has jurisdiction. The administrative justice may direct justices, clerks,
probation officers and other personnel to work in other districts (Mass. Ann. Laws
Spec. L. Ch. S31 §16A).
The commissioner of each commonwealth executive or administrative
department, including the secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, and receiver-
general, and the auditor and director of each division of each department, must
designate five persons (by name or position) who shall exercise duties in the event
of absence or disability. Each designation is subject to the governor’s and the
Defense Council’s approval. Such designation remains in effect until revoked by the
officer who made it. Persons designated shall perform duties only in succession to
persons authorized under other statute provisions (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31
Any vacancy in any office that is to be filled by the governor with the advice and
consent of the defense council may be filled by the governor without the advice and
consent of the council if the vacancy results from enemy attack and the attack
prevents a quorum from being present. Any such appointment is temporary, pending
appointment in the usual manner when circumstances permit (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec.
L. Ch. S31 §20B).
During an enemy attack any officer subject to removal by the governor with the
advice and consent of the council may be so removed without advice and consent,
provided that the removal is based on grounds and that the removal is temporary until
approved by council. The governor may fill a vacancy resulting from removal
without advice and consent of council (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §20C).
The second Sunday in May is Massachusetts Emergency Responders Memorial
Day to honor first responders, national guard, disaster assistance, and emergency
management personnel killed in line of duty (Mass. Ann. Laws Ch. 6, §15RRR).
Emergency Management Week follows the second Sunday in May, with special
attention paid to mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery through public
information programs and training exercises (Mass. Ann. Laws Ch. 6, §15 SSS).
Leave of absence is authorized for commonwealth employees who serve as Red
Cross volunteers, up to a maximum of 15 days per calendar year. Each chapter of the
Red Cross in the Commonwealth must compile an annual report of state employees
granted a leave of absence, and number of days absent (Mass. Ann. Laws Ch. 30,
If a taxpayer is affected by a presidentially declared disaster, terrorist attack, or
a military action, the commissioner of revenue may waive that person’s tax liability
for one year (Mass. Ann. Laws Ch. 62C, §87).
If property acquired by imminent taking is diminished in value due to a
presidentially declared disaster, the damages not compensated by insurance are fixed
at fair market value prior to the disaster (Mass. Ann. Laws Ch. 79, §12A).
Regular, special and reserve members of police and fire forces and state guard
members may enter private property to enforce blackout rules (Mass. Ann. Laws
Spec. L. Ch. S31 §10).
Local government officials may appoint, train and equip volunteer auxiliary
firemen and police and equip them under approval of EMA; auxiliary units that
protect life and property and members are granted immunity from liability claims
(Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §11).
Immunity from civil liability is extended to persons engaged in civil defense
activities (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §12).
Immunity from civil liability is extended for persons owning or controlling real
estate who permit a political subdivision to use the property to shelter persons during
enemy attack (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §12A).
No civil defense organization shall participate in political activity (Mass. Ann.
Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §17).
The statute requires a loyalty oath for civil defense employees (Mass. Ann. Laws
Spec. L. Ch. S31 §18).
The commonwealth civil defense statute becomes inoperative by adoption of
joint resolution by the house and senate (Mass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31 §22).
Courts do not have jurisdiction to review adequacy of emergency mitigation
response, except with regard to the recovery of costs from persons legally responsible
for the release of hazardous material (Mass. Ann. Laws Ch. 21K §§5-6).
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Terms Defined in Massachusetts Statutes, with Citations
Act of GodMass. Ann. Laws Ch. 21K, §1
Civil defenseMass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch.S31
Emergency mitigation responseMass. Ann. Laws Ch. 21K, §1
Hazardous materialMass. Ann. Laws Ch. 21K, §1
Hazardous materials mitigationMass. Ann. Laws Ch. 21K, §1
emergency response plan
Imminent threatMass. Ann. Laws Ch. 21K, §1
Incident commanderMass. Ann. Laws Ch. 21K, §1
Local organization for civil defenseMass. Ann. Laws Spec. L. Ch. S31, §1
ReleaseMass. Ann. Laws Ch. 21E, §2
RespondMass. Ann. Laws Ch. 21E, §2
Team leaderMass. Ann. Laws Ch. 21K, §1
Threat of releaseMass. Ann. Laws Ch. 21E, §2
For Further Research
Some of the citations noted above and other elements of the state code for the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts may be searched at:
[http://www.state.ma.us/legis/laws/mgl/index.htm]. Many of the provisions were
included in Special Law Chapter §31, “Civil Defense Act,” which was not codified
as of the date of this report.