State of emergency

From Academic Kids

A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend certain normal functions of government, may work to alert citizens to alter their normal behaviors, or may order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale for suspending civil liberties. Such declarations usually come during a time of natural disaster, during periods of civil unrest, or following a declaration of war.

In some countries, the state of emergency and its effects on civil liberties and governmental procedure are regulated by the constitution or a law that limits the powers that may be invoked during an emergency or rights suspended (e.g. Art. 2-B Executive Law of New York state) It is also frequently illegal to modify the emergency law or Constitution during the emergency (e.g. Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, Chapter Xa, Atricle 115e, section 2).



Though fairly uncommon in democracies, dictatorial regimes often declare a state of emergency that is prolonged indefinitely as long as the regime lasts. In some situations, martial law is also declared, allowing the military greater authority to act.

Some political theorists have argued that the power to declare a state of emergency is the most fundamental power of government, and that knowing who decides on declaring a state of emergency in a given country or territory tells you a lot about where the real power in that country or territory is located, even if the country's constitution paints a different image on the surface.

Separate countries

The United States


A federal emergency declaration allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to exercise its power to deal with emergency situations; federal assistance also become available to areas that are declared to be in a state of emergency. For FEMA, emergency declarations are different from the more common disaster declarations done for hurricanes and floods.

In the United States, the chief executive is typically empowered to declare a State of Emergency. The President of the United States, a governor of a state, or even a local mayor may declare a State of Emergency within his or her jurisdiction. This is relatively rare at the federal level, but quite common at the state level in response to natural disasters.

Typically, a state of emergency empowers the executive to name coordinating officials to deal with the emergency and to override normal administrative processes regarding the passage of administrative rules.

The courts in the United States are often very lenient in allowing almost any action to be taken in the case of such a declared emergency, if it is reasonably related. For example, habeas corpus is the right to challenge an arrest in court. The U.S. Constitution says, "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."

Habeas corpus was suspended on April 27, 1861 during the American Civil War by Abraham Lincoln in parts of midwestern states, including southern Indiana. He did so in response to demands by generals to set up military courts to rein in "copperheads", or those in the Union who supported the Confederate cause. Lambdin Milligan and four others were accused of planning to steal Union weapons and invade Union prisoner-of-war camps and were sentenced to hang by a military court in 1864. However, their execution was not set until May 1865, so they were able to argue the case after the Civil War. It was decided in the Supreme Court case Ex Parte Milligan 71 US 2 1866 that the suspension was unconstitutional because civilian courts were still operating, and the Constitution (according to the Court) only provided for suspension of habeas corpus if these courts are actually forced closed.

The United Kingdom

In the UK the monarch or a Senior Minister may make emergency regulations under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 if there is a serious threat to human welfare or the environment or in case of war or terrorism. These last for seven days unless confirmed by Parliament.


In Spain there are three degrees of state of emergency (estado de emergencia in Spanish): alerta (alert), excepción (exception[al circumstance]) and sitio (siege). They are named by the constitution, which limits which rights may be suspended, but regulated by the "Ley Orgánica 4/1981 (" (Organic Law).


In the FRG the emergency legislature (passed in 1968 despite fierce opposition by the German student movement) states that the basic constitutional rights of the Grundgesetz may be limited in case of a state of defence, a state of tension, or an internal state of emergency or disaster.


The federal government of Canada can use the Emergencies Act to invoke a state of emergency. A national state of emergency automatically expires after 90 days. The Emergencies Act replaced the War Measures Act in 1988. The War Measures Act has been invoked three times in Canadian history, most controversially during the FLQ Crisis. A state of emergency can also be declared by provincial, territorial, and municipal governments (more information (



Past SoEs

In India, Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in 1975 in response to political opposition and her own conviction on charges of electoral fraud. The Emergency lasted for 19 months; see Indian Emergency.

In United States history, there have been multiple federal states of emergency declared, some of which have never technically been ended. With legislation initiated during Nixon's presidency and signed into law by President Ford administration, the U.S. Congress effectively ended the outstanding states of emergency by making the statutory provisions which are activated by such a declaration dormant. The same legislation also requires a separate declaration for each new emergency for the extra powers to come into effect, the statutes providing the additional powers will once again become dormant automatically in two years, with or without a cancellation of the previous emergency. The oldest declaration still technically in effect was issued March 9, 1933 by President Roosevelt during his first two days in office so that he could impose a "bank holiday" during the Great Depression

See also

External links

Other uses

State Of Emergency is also a Video Game by Rockstar Games in which players rebel against a shadowy nl:Noodtoestand


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