Tennessee Emergency Management and Homeland Security Statutory Authorities Summarized
CRS Report for Congress
Tennessee Emergency Management
and Homeland Security
Statutory Authorities Summarized
May 27, 2004
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
L. Cheryl Runyon and Kae M. Warnock
Government and Finance Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Tennessee Emergency Management and Homeland
Security Statutory Authorities Summarized
Tennessee’s emergency management statutes are codified in the Disasters,
Emergencies and Civil Defense chapter of the state code. The General Assembly has
found that the population of the state is vulnerable to a range of disasters, including
natural, technological, and terrorist events. The governor, General Assembly, and
local officials share responsibilities such as developing disaster plans, providing aid,
issuing emergency declarations, and ensuring the continuity of the government.
Funds are provided through the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, with
some funds earmarked from sale of special license plates. Mutual aid is provided
through three compacts. The statute prohibits price gouging after disasters occur.
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...........................................8
List of Tables
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland
Security Terms Defined in Tennessee Statutes, with Citations...........7
Tennessee Emergency Management and
Homeland Security Statutory Authorities
Entities with Key Responsibilities
Governor: In an emergency the governor may assume direct operational control
over all or any part of the state emergency management functions and is authorized
to: delegate powers; issue, amend, or rescind executive orders, proclamations, and
rules; suspend any law, rule or regulation that would hinder necessary action; use
available state and local resources; direct the evacuation of stricken or threatened
areas; authorize the use of force for cleanup and recovery operations; and direct state
and local law enforcement officers and agencies to comply with the state emergency
response program. During a state of emergency the governor may: suspend laws;
use state government and political subdivision resources; transfer staff and functions
from state agencies; use private property (with compensation); order evacuations;
identify routes; control ingress or egress to the affected area; suspend or limit the sale
of alcohol, firearms, explosives, and combustibles; provide temporary housing; and
exercise control over utilities and civilian traffic. During a state of emergency the
governor serves as commander-in-chief of the state national guard and all other
forces available for emergency duty. To greatest extent possible the governor must,
by prior arrangement in executive orders or rules, delegate or assign command
authority. The governor’s authority, however, is not restricted by emergency orders
(Tenn. Code Ann. §58- 2-107(a),(d)-(j)).
Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA): TEMA officials must
create and maintain a comprehensive statewide emergency management program
integrated into and coordinated with the federal government. The director of TEMA
reports to the adjutant general and coordinates activities with the federal government
and state agencies and departments, in addition to units of local governments and
private agencies. The powers the agency may exercise include the following:
promulgate standards for county plans; make recommendations to the General
Assembly for preparedness, prevention and mitigation measures; determine supply
and equipment needs; institute statewide public awareness programs; coordinate
state, federal, local emergency management activities; survey industries, resources
and facilities; and prepare executive orders. On the governor’s authorization, TEMA
officials make or rescind orders and rules for emergency management purposes and
prepares and distributes catalogs of federal, state and private assistance programs to
state and local officials (Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 58-2-103, 58-2-104, 58-2-106, 58-2-
Emergency Services Coordinators: Executive branch department heads must
select staff to coordinate with TEMA on preparedness issues and ensure that state
agencies have disaster plans (Tenn. Code. Ann. §58-2-108).
Public Health Emergency Advisory Committee: The committee must
recommend a timeline to the governor to develop and implement a comprehensive
plan for bioterrorism emergency preparation and response. Also, the committee must
assist the governor and the General Assembly in developing, implementing and
evaluating a comprehensive statewide plan for emergency preparedness and response,
in addition to recommending statutory changes (Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-56-105).
Hospital biopreparedness planning committee: The committee provides
recommendations to the governor about regional hospital plans as well as emergency
distribution and management plans. The committee also receives, evaluates, and
dispenses reports, among other duties (Tenn. Code Ann. §68-56-108).
Political subdivisions: Each county must establish and maintain an emergency
management agency. Municipalities are authorized and encouraged to create
municipal emergency management programs. Political subdivisions may appropriate
and spend funds for emergency management, employ and assign staff as primary
emergency management forces, establish emergency operations centers, and request
state assistance or mutual aid. Local emergency management agencies serve their
respective counties, and local programs must comply with county programs. Local
agencies are authorized to join interjurisdictional emergency management agreements
through an executive order issued by the governor or by rule. Subdivisions are
directed to use the services, equipment, supplies, personnel, and facilities of agencies
and political subdivisions during an emergency. The directors of local agencies are
appointed by the local governing body (Tenn. Code Ann. §§58-2-110, 58-2-114).
The Tennessee Emergency Management Plan (TEMP) must include evacuation,
shelter, and post disaster response and recovery components, as well as procedures
for activating the plan. Further TEMP requirements include: a description of the
chain of command; a comprehensive communications plan; a means to monitor
mutual aid agreements; a comprehensive statewide medical care plan; and provisions
for urban search and rescue teams, among other elements (Tenn. Code Ann. §58-2-
The statute notes the intent of the General Assembly is to provide for the
coordination and funding of emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and
mitigation activities among and between state agencies, as well as with similar
agencies in other states, local and federal governments, interstate organizations, and
the private sector (Tenn. Code Ann. §58-2-102 (c)).
The statute sets forth requirements for TEMA to develop and test radiological
emergency preparedness plans in conjunction with appropriate counties and operators
of nuclear power plants (Tenn. Code Ann. §58-2-123).
The statute established a framework for the preparation of a response plan for
public health emergencies that arise from acts of bioterrorism (Tenn. Code Ann. §68-
Political subdivisions are authorized to establish primary and secondary
emergency operations centers. They are also authorized to provide for the continuity
of government and the direction and control of emergency operations (Tenn. Code
Ann. §58-22-110 (3) (A) (iii)).
Accidents involving hazardous materials must be reported to TEMA and
appropriate local officials as soon as possible following an incident (Tenn. Code
Ann. 58-2-601 et seq.).
The governor is authorized to declare a state of emergency or issue a disaster
declaration by executive order or through activation of the TEMP. A state of
emergency continues for a maximum period of 60 days until the governor terminates
it by executive order or proclamation, or renews the declaration. All such orders
must indicate the level of disaster or emergency and identify the threatened areas,
enumerate the conditions for termination, and must be disseminated to the general
public and filed with the state department and chief executive officer of each county.
Executive orders or proclamations activate emergency mitigation, response, and
recovery aspects of state, local and interjurisdictional emergency management plans
for political subdivisions. Among other effects, such an order or proclamation
authorizes the deployment and use of “forces” to distribute supplies, equipment, and
materials (Tenn. Code Ann. §58-2-107).
A local state of emergency declaration remains in force for seven days, and may
be extended by officials of the political subdivision in seven-day increments.
Subdivisions are authorized to waive laws and “formalities” regarding acquiring
equipment, contracting, and appropriating funds during an emergency (Tenn. Code
The chief administrative officer of a municipality may proclaim in writing that
a civil emergency exists. A copy of the proclamation must be filed with the clerk of
the municipality or with the recorder. During a civil emergency, the chief
administrative officer may order a general curfew for a maximum period of 15 days
and take actions such as closing retail liquor stores, bars, gas stations and preventing
the sale of firearms (Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 38-9-102 to104).
Types of Assistance
TEMA is authorized to provide support from “available personnel, equipment,
and other resources” to reinforce emergency management agencies in areas stricken
by emergencies. Further, TEMA is permitted to provide the same types of assistance
in other states “upon the conditions specified” in statute, and is authorized to
compensate staff (Tenn. Code Ann. §58-2-113).
The governor, the director of TEMA, and officials of political subdivisions may
use the services, equipment, supplies, personnel, and facilities of existing agencies
and political subdivisions during an emergency (Tenn. Code Ann. §58-2-114).
The governor is authorized to enter into civil defense, disaster, and emergency
management assistance compacts with contiguous states to provide mutual aid among
contracting states to meet any emergency or disaster from enemy attack, sabotage or
other hostile action (Tenn. Code Ann. § 58-2-401).
The Southern Regional Emergency Management Assistance Compact is codified
(Tenn. Code Ann. §58-2-403).
The Interstate Earthquake Compact of 1988 is codified (Tenn. Code Ann. § 58-
The Southeast Interstate Forest Fire Protection Compact is codified (Tenn. Code
Ann. §11-4-501 et seq).
The Local Government Emergency Assistance Act provides that personnel sent
into another jurisdiction to render assistance retain the same rights and immunities
they hold in their base jurisdiction (Tenn. Code Ann. § 58-2-111).
Political subdivisions’ governing bodies are to develop and enter into mutual aid
agreements for reciprocal emergency aid and assistance in case of emergencies. It
is the duty of each local emergency management agency to render assistance
according to such agreements (Tenn. Code. Ann. §58-2-112).
Incorporated cities and towns are authorized to enter into fire-fighting mutual
aid agreements with each other as well as with counties, private fire departments,
utility districts and industrial fire departments. Such mutual aid provided to other
jurisdictions is supplemental to the general authority of the unit of government (Tenn.
Code Ann. §6-54-601, 602).
Upon the request of two or more adjoining counties, or at the governor’s
discretion by executive order or rule, interjurisdictional areas responsible to plan for,
prevent, mitigate, or respond to emergencies may be established. The decision must
be based on factors (such as sparse population and limited financial resources)
indicative of the difficulty of establishing an effective emergency prevention,
mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery system on a nonjurisdictional basis
(Tenn. Code. Ann. §58-2-110 (3) (B)).
The governor may authorize a state department to: lend or lease real or personal
state property to federal emergency management agencies; assist political
subdivisions with contracts or leases for real or personal state property; and
temporarily transfer state employees to political subdivisions. Local governing
bodies may contract with the state for resources (Tenn. Code Ann. §58-2-117).
The statute states that it is the intent of the General Assembly that funds to
prepare for and to meet emergencies be always available. The General Assembly
annually funds TEMA. The governor may make funds available by transferring and
expending moneys appropriated for other purposes or out of any unappropriated
surplus funds. Further, the governor may apply for, administer, and use grants, gifts,
and other payments. The governor, or the designated representative, may accept a
gift, grant, or loan from a person or corporation (Tenn. Code Ann. §58-2-109).
Funds produced from the sale of new specialty license plates, “United for
America,” are to be allocated to TEMA for purposes of disaster planning and
emergency preparedness. The receipt of such funds cannot result in any
appropriations reduction otherwise made to the agency (Tenn. Code Ann. §55-4-
Each political subdivision has the authority to: appropriate and expend funds;
obtain and distribute equipment, materials, and supplies for emergency purposes; and
provide for the health and safety of persons and property, including emergency
assistance to victims (Tenn. Code Ann. §58-2-110 (3)).
Each local emergency planning committee (LEPC) may collect an annual fee of
$100 from industries to pay for annual exercises, public education, and printing the
Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Plan (Tenn. Code Ann. §58-2-110 (4)).
The governor is directed to consider mitigation measures and work with state
agencies to identify mitigation measures. TEMA and other state officials must study
vulnerabilities, and are authorized to make recommendations to reduce or prevent
hazards in areas “particularly susceptible” to catastrophes. The governor is
authorized to request legislative action if political subdivisions or state agencies do
not take action (Tenn. Code Ann. §58-2-116).
Continuity of Government Operations
If an emergency from enemy attack prevents units of local government from
conducting government affairs at their regular location, the governing body of each
political subdivision may meet within or without territorial limits on the call of the
presiding officer or two members of the governing body. They must also designate
by ordinance or resolution the temporary government location. The governing body
may exercise executive, legislative, judicial powers and functions and does not have
to comply with “time consuming procedures and formalities.” All acts under such
conditions are valid and binding (Tenn. Code Ann. §7-51-101 et seq).
The governor must take steps to protect the public from price gouging during
a declared state of emergency (Tenn. Code Ann. §47-18-510s1 et seq).
Persons who volunteer the use of property for purposes of shelter are not liable
for death or injury to persons or damage to property (Tenn. Code Ann. §58-2-121).
Fire fighters have immunity from liability while providing mutual aid (Tenn.
Code Ann. §6-54-603).
Compensation must be provided for property commandeered or used in an
emergency (Tenn. Code Ann. §58-2-115).
A state employee who serves as an American Red Cross volunteer can use up
to15 days leave per year to participate in disaster response, with the approval of his
or her appointing authority (Tenn. Code Ann. §8-50-810).
State employees are not to be compensated for the loss of personal property
when such loss results from “an act of God or natural disaster” (Tenn. Code Ann. §9-
Architects or engineers who volunteer to provide a building or structural
inspection service within a 90 day period after an earthquake at the request of a
public safety officer or building inspector are not liable for negligence for personal
injury or property damage (Tenn. Code Ann. § 62-2-109).
The state Terrorism Prevention and Response Act of 2002 provides that the
intentional release of chemical or biological material constitutes a use of weapons of
mass destruction (Tenn. Code Ann. §39-13-802 et seq).
The statute requires that records on structural or operational vulnerability of a
utility service provider be confidential and not open to the public in order to prevent
disruption in services or contingency plans for responding to or preventing a violent
incident, school or business violence, a weapons of mass destruction threat or a
terrorist incident (Tenn. Code Ann. §10-7-504(21)(A)).
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Terms Defined in Tennessee Statutes, with Citations
Biological warfare agentsTenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-803 (2)
BioterrorismTenn. Code Ann. § 68-56-103 (1)
Chemical warfare agentsTenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-803 (3)
Civil emergencyTenn. Code Ann. §38-9-101 (2)
DisasterTenn. Code Ann. § 58-2-101 (4)
EmergencyTenn. Code Ann. § 58-2-101 (6)
Emergency managementTenn. Code Ann. § 58-2-101 (7)
Emergency management agency (EMA)Tenn. Code Ann. § 58-2-101 (5)
Emergency management preparednessTenn. Code Ann. § 58-2-101 (8)
and assistance trust fund
Emergency services coordinatorTenn. Code Ann. § 58-2-101 (9)
Local emergency management agencyTenn. Code Ann. § 58-2-101 (14)
Manmade emergencyTenn. Code Ann. § 58-2-101 (15)
Mobile reserve unitTenn. Code Ann. §58-2-116
Natural emergencyTenn. Code Ann. § 58-2-101 (17)
Nuclear or radiological agentsTenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-803 (5)
Public health emergencyTenn. Code Ann. § 68-56-103 (2)
State coordinating officer (SCO)Tenn. Code Ann. § 58-2-101 (20)
State of emergencyTenn. Code Ann. §47-18-5102 (11)
Technological emergencyTenn. Code Ann. § 58-2-101 (21)
Weapon of mass destructionTenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-803 (6)
Weaponized biological or biologicTenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-803 (9)
For Further Research
The citations noted above and other elements of the state code for Tennessee
may be searched at: [http://22.214.171.124/tennessee/lpext.dll?f=templates&fn=fs-