West Virginia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Statutory Authorities Summarized
CRS Report for Congress
West Virginia Emergency Management
and Homeland Security Statutory
September 3, 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
West Virginia Emergency Management and Homeland
Security Statutory Authorities Summarized
The emergency management code for West Virginia (chapter 15-5) created a
state emergency services agency and authorized creation of local and regional
organizations for emergency services. The statute confers emergency powers upon
the governor and the executive heads of governing bodies of political subdivisions,
and provides for the rendering of mutual aid among the political subdivisions, other
states, and with the federal government. The Emergency Interim Legislative
Succession Act and Emergency Interim Executive and Judicial Succession Act
provide lines of succession for all levels of government.
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
West Virginia Statutes, with Citations..............................6
West Virginia Emergency Management and
Homeland Security Statutory Authorities
Entities with Key Responsibilities
Governor: The governor is authorized to assume direct operational control over
all or any part of the state’s emergency services functions, and to cooperate with the
federal government, other states and private agencies in all matters pertaining to the
delivery of emergency services. The governor may make or change directives,
prepare and implement a comprehensive plan for emergency services (which is
integrated into and coordinated with comparable plans of the federal government and
other states), and coordinate plans of political subdivisions. The governor may:
procure supplies and equipment; institute training and public information programs;
order partial or full mobilization of emergency services organizations; and, ascertain
the capabilities of the state for providing emergency services.
The governor may also: enter into mutual aid arrangements with other states
and coordinate mutual aid between political subdivisions; appoint a disaster recovery
team; cooperate with the President of the United States, federal agencies, and with
other states in matters pertaining to civil defense, including the management of
blackouts, mobilization of emergency services and civil defense forces, suspension
of utility services, and evacuation of the civilian population (W. Va. Code §15-5-5).
During a state of emergency the governor may assume direct operational control of
any or all emergency service forces and helpers and sell, lend, give, or procure
material and facilities or perform functions relating to emergency services. The
governor is to provide compensation for property taken; may compel evacuation of
all or part of the population from any stricken or threatened area; control ingress and
egress to and from a disaster area; suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute
or any agency order, rule or regulation as necessary; use all available resources;
suspend or limit the sale, dispensation, or transportation of alcoholic beverages,
firearms, explosives and combustibles; and provide for the availability and use of
temporary emergency housing (W. Va. Code §15-5-6). The governor, the chairs of
regional councils, and the executive officers or governing bodies of political
subdivisions are directed to use the services, equipment, supplies, and facilities of
existing departments, offices, and agencies of the state and political subdivisions to
the maximum extent practicable (W. Va. Code §15-5-16). The unorganized militia
is available at the call of the governor for duty with the emergency service forces (W.
Va. Code §15-5-19).
Office of Emergency Services(OES): Created within the office of the governor,
the OES director is appointed by the governor. The statute identifies employees as
members of the state civil service system and part of the classified service. The
director of OES coordinates the activities of all organizations for emergency services
and maintains liaison with emergency service and civil defense agencies and
organizations of other states and the federal government. The director may acquire
by purchase, lease, or gift, real property and rights or easements to construct
buildings for housing an emergency services control center (W. Va. Code §15-5-3).
OES determines the means for rapid and efficient communication in times of disaster
and considers supplementing communication resources or integrating them into state,
federal-state or other communications systems (W. Va. Code §15-5-21).
Disaster Recovery Board: The statute created the board to advise the governor
and the OES director on all matters pertaining to emergency services and outlines
board membership requirements, term, and quorum standards. Meetings may be held
by telephone conference call or other electronic communications, and are exempt
from standard notice requirements if a disaster requires immediate action by the
board (W. Va. Code §15-5-4). See also “Types of Assistance.”
Political subdivisions: The statute authorizes and directs units of local
government to establish local organizations for emergency services. Political
subdivisions may confer upon members of the auxiliary police the powers of peace
officers. Each local organization consists of a director and a local emergency
services council appointed by the executive officer or governing body and other
members as required. The executive officer or governing body of the political
subdivision exercises general direction and control of the local emergency services
organization; the council advises the director, who is executive head of the
organization. Each local organization must perform emergency service functions
within its territorial limits as well as outside the limits as required. Each political
subdivision in which any disaster occurs has the power to enter into contracts and
incur obligations necessary to combat disaster, protect the health and safety of
persons and property, and provide emergency assistance to victims (W. Va. Code
Regional emergency service organizations: The governor may established such
organizations for any combination of political subdivisions. Each organization is
directed by a council of local emergency service directors of the political
subdivisions in the region. Emergency service organizations are required to
coordinate their activities with those of the regional planning and development
councils in the state; each political subdivision included in the region pays its
proportionate share of the ordinary expenses of activities. Regional organizations
may be dissolved, reorganized or rearranged at the discretion of the governor (W. Va.
Emergency Response Commission: The statute created the state emergency
response commission, identifies membership, and establishes emergency planning
districts and committees in accordance with the federal Emergency Planning and
Community Right-to-Know Act, 42 U.S.C. 11001 et seq. (W. Va. Code §15-5A et.
The governor or the authorized representative of the governor may create mobile
support units “with due consideration” of federal and other state plans to reinforce
disaster organizations in stricken areas and is empowered to appoint a commander
for each unit. Mobile support units are called to duty by the governor, and perform
their functions in any part of the state or, under certain conditions, in other states (W.
Va. Code §15-5-7).
A state of emergency may be proclaimed by the governor, or by concurrent
resolution of the legislature, if an attack upon the United States has occurred or is
imminent, or if a natural or man-made disaster of major proportions has occurred or
is imminent. Any such state of emergency terminates upon gubernatorial
proclamation or passage of a concurrent resolution by the legislature (W. Va. Code
Types of Assistance
The governor may call out the military forces of the state to execute laws,
suppress insurrection, and repel invasion (W. Va. Constitution Article 7-12).
The statute authorizes the disaster recovery board to disburse funds from the
disaster relief recovery trust fund and take other actions to assist persons, political
subdivisions, or local organizations for emergency services responding to or
recovering from a disaster (W. Va. Code §15-5-4b). The board is authorized to
accept appropriations, gifts, grants, bequests, and devises from any public or private
source and use them to provide assistance. The recovery trust fund may be used to
pay costs incurred by any state department or agency in conjunction with federal
emergency aid and a presidentially declared disaster. The board may establish
temporary housing for disaster victims and help local governments acquire sites,
provided that the financial assistance constitutes a disaster recovery activity. The
board may make insured or uninsured loans or grants for temporary housing,
residential housing, community facilities, and essential business activities upon a
finding that the loan or grant would constitute a disaster recovery activity, and that
funds are not otherwise available (W. Va. Code §15-5-4c).
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact is codified (W. Va. Code
The director of each local organization for emergency services may, in
collaboration with other public and private agencies within the state, develop mutual
aid agreements for reciprocal aid and assistance. Also, subject to the approval of the
governor, directors may enter into mutual aid agreements with emergency service and
civil defense agencies or organizations in other states for reciprocal aid and
assistance (W. Va. Code §15-5-9).
Persons or entities providing lawful emergency medical services are authorized
to enter into and renew service reciprocity agreements. The commissioner of the
Bureau of Public Health is authorized to enter into service reciprocity agreements
with appropriate officials in other states to provide emergency medical services (W.
Va. Code §16-4C-20). The commissioner may restrict an out-of-state provider of
emergency services to a particular geographic area of the state (W. Va. Code §16-4C-
See also “Entities with Key Responsibilities” and “Other.”
The statute established a “temporary assistance for needy families rainy day
fund” in the state treasury, into which the secretary initially deposited the amount of
$36 million in federal block grant funds. The fund serves as a safety net for the state
works program and is to be used for continued support of the program in the event
of reduced federal funding, economic downturn, natural disasters or other events
which may deplete the program’s funds or makes them otherwise unavailable (W.
Va. Code §9-9-21).
Each political subdivision has the power to make appropriations for the payment
of expenses of its local organization for emergency services, or its proportionate
share of expenses of a regional organization, or both. The statute authorizes
acceptance of federal assistance, or aid provided by other organizations, for services,
equipment, supplies, materials or funds by way of gift, grant, or loan, for purposes
relating to emergency services (W. Va. Code §15-5-13).
The statute created the West Virginia Disaster Recovery Trust Fund, which is
administered by the disaster recovery board. The fund consists of any appropriations,
grants, gifts, contributions or revenues received by the recovery fund from any
source, public or private, as well as all income earned on moneys, properties and
assets held in the recovery fund. The recovery fund is to be treated as a special
revenue fund and not as part of the general revenues of the state. The statute requires
that moneys, properties, and assets be held in trust for carrying out the powers and
duties of the disaster recovery board. The statute prohibits use of the fund for the
benefit of members of the disaster recovery board (W. Va. Code §15-5-24 to 25).
The governor is to consider, on a continuing basis, steps that could be taken to
prevent or reduce the harmful consequences of disasters. State agencies must make
studies of disaster-related matters to enhance prevention. The governor may make
recommendations to the legislature, political subdivisions, and other appropriate
public and private entities to facilitate measures for the prevention or reduction of the
harmful consequences of disasters. The divisions of energy, natural resources and
highways, among others, are required to study land use practices and the construction
of structures and other facilities, and identify areas particularly susceptible to severe
land shifting, subsidence, flooding or other catastrophic occurrences. Such studies
are to concentrate on means of reducing or avoiding dangers caused by such
occurrences and their consequences (W. Va. Code §15-5-20).
Continuity of Government Operations
Each legislator must designate emergency interim successors meeting specified
requirements and identify their order of succession (W. Va. Code §15-7-4 through
§15-7-7, §15-7-11 and12). In the event of an attack, or when an attack may be
imminent, and the governor deems the place of session unsafe, it may be changed to
any place within or without the state which he deems safer and convenient (W. Va.
Whenever, due to an enemy attack, or an anticipated attack, it becomes
imprudent or impossible to conduct the affairs of local government at its regular
location, the governing body of each political subdivision may establish an
emergency temporary location where public business may be transacted within or
without the state (W. Va. Code §1-4-1).
The Emergency Interim Executive and Judicial Succession Act provides for the
effective operation of government during an attack upon the United States and
facilitates the early resumption of functions. The statute provides for additional
officers to exercise the powers and duties of governor, state and political subdivision
offices, and provides for special emergency judges (W. Va. Code §6A-1-1 to 2). The
statute provides for a line of succession to the office of governor beyond that set in
the state constitution (W. Va. Code §6A-1-4(a)). The statute authorizes state officers
to designate deputies or emergency interim successors and specify their order of
succession (W. Va. Code §6A-1-5). The statute enables local governing bodies of
cities, towns, and counties to enact resolutions or ordinances for filling vacancies and
to provide for emergency interim successors to offices (W. Va. Code §6A-1-6).
In the event of an attack, when any authorized judge is unavailable to exercise
the powers and duties of the office, the duties are to be discharged by a special
emergency judge. Each member of the state supreme court of appeals is to designate
special emergency judges and specify the order of succession. Special emergency
interim judges of all other courts of record are to be elected by the attorneys
practicing within the jurisdiction (W. Va. Code §6A-1-8). Specified officials are
authorized to act as governor, and emergency interim successors and special
emergency judges are empowered to exercise the powers and duties of office only
after an attack upon the United States. The legislature, by concurrent resolution, may
at any time terminate the authority of emergency officials (W. Va. Code §6A-1-10).
Designated emergency interim successors or special emergency judges may be
removed or replaced by designating authority at any time, with or without cause (W.
Va. Code §6A-1-11).
The continuity of government constitutional amendment authorizes the
legislature to provide for the prompt and temporary succession to the powers and
duties of public offices, and the duty to adopt measures necessary to insure the
continuity of governmental operations in periods of emergency resulting from
disasters caused by enemy attack (W. Va. Constitution Article 6-54).
The governor may convene the legislature at another place when it cannot safely
assemble at the seat of government. The legislature may, when in session, adjourn
to some other place, when the public safety or welfare, or the safety of the members,
require such action (W. Va. Constitution Article 6-21).
The statute provides liability protection for state or political subdivision
employees providing emergency services. Licensing requirements for any
professional, mechanical or other skill do not apply to authorized emergency service
workers. Qualified emergency service workers performing under an arrangement for
mutual aid possess the same powers, duties, immunities, and privileges as if
performing the same duties in their own state (W. Va. Code §15-5-11).
The statute grants immunity from civil liability to persons who voluntarily and
without compensation permit their property to be used as a public shelter during an
actual, impending, mock or practice emergency (W. Va. Code §15-5-12).
The statute prohibits emergency management personnel from advocating
subversive activities (W. Va. Code §15-5-15).
A state employee who is a certified disaster service volunteer may be granted
leave up to 15 days in each year to participate in specialized disaster relief services
for the American Red Cross, without benefit loss (W. Va. Code §15-5-15a).
The state fire commission is directed to promulgate rules establishing criteria
for qualified training programs in hazardous substance emergency response activities
and procedures (W. Va. Code §29-3-5a).
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Terms Defined in West Virginia Statutes, with Citations
AttackW. Va. Code §6A-1-3(d), §15-7-3 (a)
CommissionW. Va. Code §15-5A-3(d)
DisasterW. Va. Code §15-5-2(h)
Disaster recovery activitiesW. Va. Code §15-5-2(i)
Emergency interim successorW. Va. Code §6A-1-3(b)
Emergency planning districtW. Va. Code §15-5A-3(f)
Emergency servicesW. Va. Code §15-5-2(a), §15-5-2(j)
Essential business activitiesW. Va. Code §15-5-2(k)
Local emergency planning committeeW. Va. Code §15-5A-3(h)
Local organization for emergencyW. Va. Code §15-5-2(b)
Mobile support unitW. Va. Code §15-5-2(c)
Recovery fundW. Va. Code §15-5-2(m)
Temporary housingW. Va. Code §15-5-2(o)
For Further Research
The citations noted above and other elements of the state code for West Virginia
may be searched at [http://126.96.36.199/WVCODE/masterfrm3Banner.cfm].