More On Whose Authority?

by James S. Robbins

I earlier noted HSPD-5, which called on the Department of Homeland Security to formulate a National Response Plan (NRP) to coordinate incidents such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters. The NRP further details the relationship between states and the Federal government during the initial response to a disaster. The Feds may take charge following procedures as established in the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. The procedures are detailed in Appendix 5, Section 2 (p. 9) of the NRP: “Immediately after an incident, local jurisdictions respond using available resources and notify State response elements. As information emerges, they also assess the situation and the need for State assistance. The State reviews the situation, mobilizes State resources, and informs the DHS/EPR/FEMA Regional Office of actions taken. The Governor activates the State emergency operations plan, proclaims or declares a state of emergency, and requests a State/DHS joint Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) to determine if sufficient damage has occurred to justify a request for a Presidential declaration of a major disaster or emergency. Based upon the results of the PDA, the Governor may request a Presidential declaration and define the kind of Federal assistance needed.” Point being, the Feds can’t just seize control.