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A state of emergency is normally declared by a governmental body when a natural disaster or extreme civil unrest occurs. This declaration may suspend some functions of the government, or cause them to implement disaster readiness plans. It can serve as an alert to private citizens to be prepared for unusual circumstances, such as power outages, food and water shortages, or evacuations.
In many countries, this federal declaration is given when it is apparent a natural disaster, like a flood, hurricane, or tornado, is about to occur. It might also be announced shortly after an earthquake has happened. A state of emergency may also include man-made disasters, such as forest fires, in order to alert citizens of imminent danger and the possibility of evacuation.
In some cases, government agencies may temporarily cease operations when a state of emergency is declared. This can be whenever a severe storm or blizzard could make traveling to the agency's office hazardous for members of the general public. It could also be due to the fact that these employees might be assisting victims of the disaster, which takes priority over the day-to-day operations of the bureau.
Some governmental organizations exist solely to assist people who are in crisis situations. Employees of these departments often make disaster plans they can rely on, should a natural disaster or other emergency happen. These agencies are usually the first to respond to these circumstances. This is often even before a state of emergency has been declared.
A state of emergency can be declared by federal, state, or local government heads. In the U.S., this is normally done by the governor of each individual state. In countries that operate under a dictatorship, this declaration is often made whenever a regime takes power and continues for a prolonged period of time. This is because that government may want to restrict the activities of its citizens and exercise extreme control.
Natural disasters, riots, and potential acts of terrorism can all affect the safety of the general public. Declaring a state of emergency can alert people to the need for heightened alert, evacuation, or implementation of an emergency preparedness plan. It can also let them know if their neighbors or co-workers might need assistance, so they can be prepared to help them if need be.
It can be important to declare a state of emergency whenever extreme circumstances warrant doing so. This can allow the proper agencies to react to a particular situation, as well as make private citizens aware of the need to take precautions. This ruling can potentially save lives and reduce the amount of property damage as well.
One thing declaring a state of emergency does is allow the state governor to activate National Guard units immediately so they can assist in recovery.
I remember April 27 very well. I listened to a press conference on the radio and the county sheriff was saying he and the authorities had a zero tolerance policy where looters were concerned. He said his deputies had permission to shoot anything that looked like a looter, and ask questions later. The local thugs were remarkably well behaved that weekend.
I know in North Alabama, we were under a state of emergency for about a week. It was a weird, tense time.
Actually, a state of emergency is declared after the tornado hits, simply because you never can tell when one of those devils is going to touch down, and how much damage it's going to do.
One of the few times I remember a pre-tornado state of emergency was before the April 27, 2011 super outbreak. The governor declared a state of emergency at midnight. Good thing. The first tornado warnings were issued about 4 a.m.
After the system went through, we were out of power from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday morning. It was pretty awful. We had dusk-to-dawn curfews and everyone was a little jittery about looters.