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A weather-related mailing list I’m on touched on the confusion created by the declaration of a “state of emergency” (SOE). The author of the message passed along this bit of information, which came directly from his local office of emergency management (OEM); I thought it may prove useful to others as well.
What is a State of Emergency?
What exactly does that mean? If you ever wondered, below is a plain language explanation.
Your municipal OEM, County OEM or the Governor can declare a State of Emergency for your jurisdiction. When a large event occurs such as Superstorm Sandy, you may see the Governor declare a SOE statewide, or for many counties.
A State of Emergency is declared when a disaster has occurred or may be imminent that is severe enough to require state aid to supplement local resources in preventing or alleviating damages, loss, hardship or suffering. This declaration authorizes the Governor to speed State agency assistance to communities in need. It enables him/her to make resources immediately available to rescue, evacuate, shelter, provide essential commodities (i.e., heating fuel, food, etc.) and quell disturbances in affected localities. It may also position the State to seek federal assistance when the scope of the event exceeds the State’s resources.
Many assume that if a State of Emergency is declared, that you can’t drive or there are automatically curfews. IMPORTANT: That may or may not be true, so you have to pay attention to what is being said when the SOE is declared.
The declaration does not normally restrict citizen movements or activities. It may limit access to affected areas due to concerns for public safety, the public should be notified of these restrictions.
If it is necessary to impose vehicular or personal movement restrictions, the Office of Emergency Management will alert the public using all available means, including, but not limited to: traditional media, social media, the Emergency Alert System, urgent press releases, DOT highway signs, etc.
The Governor has declared a SOE for this winter storm. There are no current vehicle movement restrictions at this time. However, the order allows the State Police and emergency management to restrict traffic on roadways, if necessary, and take any other actions “to further safeguard the public security, health and welfare.