Virginia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Statutory Authorities Summarized
CRS Report for Congress
Virginia 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
Virginia Emergency Management and Homeland
Security Statutory Authorities Summarized
The Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Services and Disaster Law of 2000
(Va. Code §44-146.13) consolidated the state’s emergency management statutes.
The law delegates emergency powers to the governor, the Department of Emergency
Management, and political subdivisions. It also provides for mutual aid agreements.
Assistance and funding primarily emanate from federal aid and the Virginia Disaster
Response Fund, which is administered by the Department of Emergency
Management. The state constitution establishes the authority for continuity of
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............................................4
Continuity of Government Operations..............................6
For Further Research...........................................9
List of Tables
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland
Security Terms Defined in Virginia Statutes, with Citations.............8
Virginia Emergency Management and
Homeland Security Statutory Authorities
Entities with Key Responsibilities
Governor: The governor serves as the state director of emergency management
and is authorized to proclaim and publish rules and regulations, and to issue orders
to control, restrict, allocate, and regulate the use, sale, production and distribution of
food, fuel, commodities, materials and resources under state and federal emergency
services programs. The governor is authorized to adopt and implement the state
emergency operations plan to respond to any type of disaster affecting Virginia and
provide the support necessary to produce more detailed plans and procedures to be
developed and maintained by state agencies, local governments and other
organizations. The governor may direct or compel the evacuation of the civilian
population from stricken or threatened areas to preserve life; implement emergency
mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery actions; prescribe routes and modes
of transportation and destination; and control ingress and egress to an emergency
area. The governor appoints the state coordinator of emergency management, who
is to procure supplies and equipment, begin training and public information
programs, take steps for the mobilization of emergency management organizations
in advance of an actual disaster, and ensure the availability of trained and equipped
forces. In addition, the governor directs studies of industries, resources, and facilities
within the commonwealth to determine capabilities to plan the most efficient
emergency use (Va. Code §44.146.17).
Secretary of Public Safety: The secretary is responsible to the governor for
administration of the Department of Emergency Management and other specified
agencies (Va. Code §2.2-221).
Department of Emergency Management (DEM): DEM officials must
promulgate plans and programs to provide mitigation, preparedness, response and
recovery programs; prepare and maintain the state emergency operations plan for
response and recovery operations; and assign primary and support responsibilities for
basic emergency services to state agencies, organizations, and personnel. DEM also
coordinates and administers mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery plans
and programs with federal, state and local government agencies and related groups,
and provides guidance and assistance to state agencies and local governments to
develop and maintain emergency management programs, plans and systems. DEM
officials make recommendations to federal, state, and local agencies about preventive
and preparedness measures to eliminate or reduce disasters and their impact and
identifies necessities that may not be readily available. The department institutes
training and public information programs and consults with the state Board of
Education and State Council of Higher Education about model school crisis and
emergency management plans. DEM must develop standards and provide guidance
to maintain state and local agency emergency operations plans; coordinates with
federal, state and local governments and other organizations on emergency response
management plans; and surveys public and private industries and facilities within the
commonwealth to identify needed resources. During a state of emergency, DEM is
responsible for receiving, evaluating, and disseminating information about impending
or actual disasters and providing emergency operations facilities (Va. Code
§44.146.18). DEM officials also coordinate the development of hazardous materials
training and emergency response programs (Va. Code §44-146.35).
Coordinator of Emergency Management: The coordinator is appointed by the
governor, and serves as the state emergency planning director (Va. Code §44.146.18),
maintains a registry of shippers of hazardous radioactive material, and monitors
transportation of the same within the commonwealth (Va. Code §44-146.30).
Political subdivisions: All political subdivisions are responsible for local
disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery activities and are authorized
both to maintain an emergency management agency and hire a director of emergency
management. When the governor declares an emergency, each political subdivision
within the disaster area (with governor’s supervision) may control, restrict, allocate,
or regulate the use, sale, production, and distribution of food, fuel, materials,
commodities, and services. Such decisions cannot affect systems in adjoining
political subdivisions. Political subdivisions may enter into contracts to combat
threatened or actual disasters to protect the public health and safety of people and
property and to provide emergency assistance (Va. Code §44-146.19). Units of local
government must appoint hazardous materials coordinators (Va. Code §44-146.38).
Department of Conservation and Recreation: Department officials are required
to develop a flood protection plan for the commonwealth, inventory flood prone
areas, record flood damages, develop a strategy to prevent or mitigate flood damage,
and collect and distribute information. They also coordinate flood protection
programs with federal flood protection programs, make information available to
localities for planning, assist with floodplain management activities, inspect and
establish guidelines for the National Flood Insurance Program, and coordinate with
FEMA (Va. Code §10.1-602).
Soil and Water Conservation Board: The board organizes safety inspections of
dams. If a dam is considered to be unsafe and poses imminent danger to life and
property, the director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation is required
to notify the Department of Emergency Services (Va. Code §10.1-605 et seq.).
State Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Advisory Council: The
governor appoints council members from state agency representatives and other
representatives from local government, industry, general public and environmental
and emergency response interests. Council members provide advice to the
emergency management coordinator about Hazardous Materials Emergency
Response Program and to the Virginia Emergency Response Council. (Va. Code §44-
Virginia Emergency Response Council: The council consists of state agency
heads or representatives, appointed by the governor, with expertise in the emergency
response field (Va. Code §44-146.40).
The governor is authorized to provide incident command system guidelines to
state agencies and local emergency response organizations (Va. Code §44.146.17
The governor, state agency heads, local directors and governing bodies may use
services, equipment, supplies, and facilities of commonwealth departments and
political subdivisions, consistent with emergency operations plans (Va. Code §44-
When a state of war exists between the United States and a foreign country, or
when the commonwealth is at peril as determined by the governor, air raid
precautions such as blackouts and prohibition on movement of highway traffic may
be instituted (Va. Code §44-147 et seq).
When a state of war exists, the governor may assign firefighters and equipment
(Va. Code §44-152 et seq).
When a state of war exists, the governor is authorized to plan for troop
movements on public highways (Va. Code §44-205).
Each nuclear electrical utility must notify customers annually about evacuation
routes and other actions through newspaper advertisements (Va. Code §56-245.1:1).
See also “Entities with Key Responsibilities” Department of Emergency
The governor may declare that a state of emergency exists upon determining that
the safety and welfare of the commonwealth requires the implementation of
emergency measures due to a threatened or actual disaster (Va. Code §44.146.17 (7)).
Except for emergency plans issued to prescribe actions to be taken, no rule,
regulation, or order issued under the statute remains in effect beyond June 30
following the next adjournment of the regular session of the General Assembly. A
similar rule, regulation, or order, however, may be reissued. The governor’s
executive orders have the force and effect of the law (Va. Code §44.146-17 (1)).
A local emergency may be declared by a local emergency management director
with the consent of the governing body. If the governing body cannot convene
because of the disaster, the director, deputy director or any member of the governing
body may declare the local emergency, which must be confirmed at the next regularly
scheduled meeting or at a special meeting called within 14 days of issuance of the
declaration. A declaration activates the local emergency operations plan, and the
governing body must take appropriate action to end the declared emergency (Va.
Types of Assistance
If an emergency does not require a governor’s declaration, the coordinator of
emergency management, after consulting with the Secretary of Public Safety, may
enter into contracts to prevent or alleviate damage, loss, or hardship caused by an
emergency and protect persons and property. The coordinator is not required to
follow procedures for renting equipment, purchasing supplies, or expending public
funds (Va. Code §44-146.18:2).
The Commission of Agriculture and Consumer Services develops and initiates
programs for farmers affected by major disasters, and is authorized to make
expenditures from the Farmers Major Disaster Fund to assist with meeting animal
feed needs and providing supplemental staff for state and federal relief efforts.
Localities also may initiate a grant program for emergency financial assistance to
offset losses resulting from major disaster declared by governor (Va. Code §3.1-
22.19). All loans are to be paid from the Farmers Major Disaster Fund. The
governor is authorized to allocate money from appropriations for disaster planning
and operations after declaration of a disaster (Va. Code §3.1-22.20).
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact is codified (Va. Code §44-
It is the policy of the commonwealth that emergency services are to be
coordinated with comparable services of the federal government, other states, and
private agencies (Va. Code §44-146.14 (b)).
The governor is authorized to enter into mutual aid agreements with other states
and to coordinate mutual aid plans between political subdivisions (Va. Code
The director of each local emergency management organization is authorized
to develop mutual aid arrangements (Va. Code §44-146.19 D).
Two or more political subdivisions are authorized to establish interjurisdictional
mutual aid agreements and conduct other activities. Any political subdivision may
provide or receive disaster assistance if agreed to by its governing body. Options
include local or statewide mutual aid programs. Political subdivisions may withdraw
from agreements by ordinance or resolution and must notify the coordinator of
emergency management (Va. Code §44-146.20).
The coordinator of emergency management may enter into agreements with
political subdivisions to provide hazardous materials emergency response (Va. Code
Contiguous local governments may enter into mutual aid agreements with
federal authorities to allow police cooperation and assistance on federal land (Va.
The Virginia Disaster Response Fund is a non-lapsing revolving fund
administered by the coordinator of emergency management. All expenses, costs,
judgements, and reimbursements are to be paid into the fund, along with annual
appropriations. Disbursements are to be made for costs and expenses to prevent or
alleviate damage, loss, hardship, and suffering caused by emergencies, resource
shortages, or natural or man-made disasters. The fund may also be used to procure,
maintain, or replenish materials, equipment, and supplies, and to pay costs for
recovery from disasters, including the restoration of public property and facilities.
The coordinator of emergency management may seek reimbursement from persons
causing or contributing to an emergency or disaster for sums disbursed from the fund
for losses or damage caused by the said persons. If not paid within 60 days, the
attorney general may institute legal proceedings and may recover legal, court costs
and other expenses related to the collection of money. Also, the attorney general may
recover costs incurred by any other state agency or political subdivision that acted at
the direction of the coordinator (Va. Code §44-146.18:1).
After the governor declares a disaster, all state funds not constitutionally
restricted may be spent. The governor is to allot funds to state agencies or political
subdivisions to carry out disaster services. The governor is authorized to provide
assistance to eligible applicants in areas included in a state of emergency, not a major
disaster. DEM must establish guidelines and procedures for determining whether
financial assistance should be provided to local governments, subject to statutory
guidance. The governor must report to the chairs of specified legislative committees
within 30 days of approving sums. DEM must report annually to the General
Assembly about local jurisdictions that received financial assistance, and the amount
each jurisdiction received (Va. Code §44-146.28).
The Flood Prevention and Protection Assistance Fund consists of money
appropriated by the General Assembly. The director of the Department of
Conservation and Recreation may make grants and loans to city, county, or town,
water authorities to assist with the development and implementation of flood
prevention or protection projects or studies. State money is to serve as a match to
local funds, with up to $50,000 per year eligible to be spent as a cost-share for federal
flood protection studies (Va. Code §10.1-603.17 et seq.).
The Radiological Emergency Preparedness Fund can only support activities to
maintain or operate emergency plans to address nuclear accidents (Va. Code §44-
The Virginia Disaster Response Fund supports responses to hazardous materials
accidents. Expenditures may be recovered from the fund (Va. Code §44-146.37).
The governor is authorized to request a major disaster declaration from the
President, and must certify the need for federal disaster assistance and ensure the
expenditure of a reasonable amount of funds from the commonwealth and local
governments and other agencies to alleviate damage, loss, hardship and suffering
(Va. Code §44-146.17 (8)).
If the federal government provides partial payment for disaster programs, the
remaining portion is to be paid through a combination of state and local funds.
Federal offers of services and equipment as a gift, grant, or loan to the
commonwealth or political subdivisions may be accepted, and representatives may
agree to terms of offers including indemnification of federal government (Va. Code
The commissioner of social services may receive grants and funds to provide
assistance for child welfare services, including day care, disaster relief, and
emergency assistance awards, from the federal government (Va. Code §63.2-207).
The governing bodies of counties, cities, or towns may appropriate funds for
emergency management (Va. Code §44-146.27 D.).
The governor is directed to consider hazard mitigation and other measures to
prevent or reduce the consequences of disasters. State agencies responsible for
floodplain management, stream encroachment, flow regulation, weather
modification, fire prevention and control, air quality, public works, land use and
planning and construction standards must study disaster prevention. The governor
is authorized to make recommendations to the General Assembly, local governments
and public and private entities for preventing and reducing disaster effects (Va. Code
The Library of Virginia is required to develop a plan to preserve public records
in the event of a disaster or emergency. The plan must be coordinated with DEM and
copies distributed to agency heads (Va. Code§42.1-91).
Continuity of Government Operations
A quorum is a majority of members elected to each chamber of the General
Assembly, but a smaller number may adjourn a session. Also, a smaller number (not
less than 2/5 of the elected membership of each chamber) may meet and enact
legislation if the governor declares by proclamation that a quorum cannot be
convened because of an enemy attack on the Commonwealth (Va. Constitution Art
Any locality, by ordinance, may assure the continuity of government in the event
of an enemy attack or other disaster. Such an ordinance is limited in effect to six
months after the attack or disaster, and must provide for the resumption of normal
governmental authority at end of a six-month period (Va. Code §15.2-1413).
Banks and other financial institutions may suspend business during an actual or
threatened enemy attack, civil insurrection, fire, flood, hurricane, or riot that affects
a community where the institution conducts business (Va. Code §6.1-12). In the
event an enemy attack or disaster occurs where a savings institution conducts
business, the institution may be temporarily closed with the approval of officers
without prior approval of directors or the commonwealth commissioner (Va. Code
A person rendering emergency care without compensation at the scene of an
accident, fire, or life-threatening emergency is not liable for civil damages for acts
or omissions resulting from care or assistance provided. Immunity also applies if aid
is rendered at the request of police, fire, rescue or emergency squad personnel (Va.
Commonwealth agencies, political subdivisions, federal agencies, and public or
private agencies and their representatives are not liable for death or injury to persons
or damage to property resulting from emergency services, except for willful
misconduct. Persons owning or controlling real estate who provide shelter are not
liable for death, injury, or property loss. A professional person licensed by another
state who gratuitously renders aid during disaster is not liable for death, injury or
property damage. No liability is incurred for injuries sustained while rendering care
or assistance during actual or threatened discharge of hazardous substances, or
cleaning up, treating and disposing of hazardous waste (Va. Code §44-146.23).
With respect to the activities of law enforcement, fire fighters, DEM officers,
or hazardous materials teams, an owner of real property that is open to the public
owes a duty to maintain the premises in reasonably safe condition or warn of dangers.
The owner also must care for premises not normally open to the public if he or she
has reason to know that first responders may come on the premises. Firefighters and
police are owed a duty of ordinary care (Va. Code §8.01-226).
DEM employees must take a loyalty oath, and emergency management staff
cannot advocate the use of force or violence against the United States or the
commonwealth (Va. Code §44-146.25).
It is the duty of every emergency management organization to execute and
enforce orders, rules, regulations made by the governor (Va. Code §44-146.26).
All officers and employees of the commonwealth who are members of the state
defense force or the National Defense Executive Reserve are entitled to leaves of
absence without pay or seniority loss (Va. Code §44-204).
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Terms Defined in Virginia Statutes, with Citations
DischargeVa. Code §44-146.16 (11)
EmergencyVa. Code §44-146.16 (2a)
Emergency flood insurance programVa. Code §10.1-600
Emergency servicesVa. Code §44.146.16 (3)
Flood hazard areaVa. Code §10.1-600
Flood plainVa. Code §10.1-600
Flood prevention or protectionVa. Code §10.1-603.16
Flood prevention or protection studiesVa. Code §10.1-603.16
Hazardous materialsVa. Code §44-146.34 B
Hazard mitigationVa. Code §44-146.16 (13)
Hazardous substancesVa. Code §44.146-16 (12)
Hundred year floodVa. Code §10.1-600
Interjurisdictional agency forVa. Code §44-146.16(9)
Local emergencyVa. Code §44-146.16(6)
Local emergency managementVa. Code §444.146.16(7)
Major disasterVa. Code §44-146.16(4)
Man-made disasterVa. Code §44-146.16(2)
National flood insurance programVa. Code §10.1-600
Natural disasterVa. Code § 44-146.16(1)
Regular flood insurance programVa. Code §10.1-600
State of emergencyVa. Code §44-146.16
For Further Research
The citations noted above and other elements of the state code for Virginia may
be searched at: [http://leg1.state.va.us/000/src.htm].