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Overview of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency

This section describes the makeup and responsibilities of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Table of Contents


The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) was established under the Massachusetts Civil Defense Act, Chapter 639 of the Acts of 1950. Section 18 of Chapter 6A of the Massachusetts General Laws placed MEMA within the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. According to its website, MEMA “is the state agency charged with ensuring the state is prepared to withstand, respond to, and recover from all types of emergencies and disasters.”

MEMA’s operations are funded through a state appropriation that is supplemented by grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

MEMA Fiscal Year Revenue Summary





State Appropriations




Federal Grants









MEMA’s director is appointed by the Governor. During our audit period, MEMA had approximately 80 full-time-equivalent employees and 12 to 15 contract employees who provided training to local stakeholders as needed. To facilitate emergency response, MEMA has developed four regions across the state to encompass all cities/towns in the Commonwealth, as indicated in the map below. MEMA’s Region 1 office is in Tewksbury, its Region 2 office is in Bridgewater, and its Region 3 and Region 4 offices are in Agawam.

A map showing the different regions MEMA covers by county.  Region One includes Essex, Middlesex, and Suffolk counties.  Region Two includes Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket, Norfolk, and Plymouth counties.  Regions Three and Four includes Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester counties.

Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act

According to a fact sheet titled “The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act” from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 1986, because of escalating concerns regarding “local preparedness for chemical emergencies and the availability of information on hazardous chemicals” in facilities throughout the United States, EPA worked with Congress to enact the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). EPCRA was created to help state and local communities and Native American populations plan for chemical emergencies. It also requires businesses to periodically report to the federal, state, and local governments information on their storage and use of hazardous substances, which these governments are supposed to use to protect their communities from potential chemical hazards.

According to EPA’s fact sheet “How to Better Prepare Your Community for a Chemical Emergency—A Guide for State, Tribal and Local Agencies,”

The purpose of EPCRA is to:

  • Encourage and support emergency planning efforts at the state, tribal and local levels
  • Provide local governments and first responders with information concerning potential chemical hazards present in their planning district
  • Prevent, prepare for, and mitigate the effects of a chemical incident, and
  • Provide the public with information on chemical risks in their community and information on what to do if a chemical accident occurs.

Chapter 116(11001) of Title 42 of the United States Code (USC) requires the governor of each state to appoint a state emergency response commission (SERC). The SERC is responsible for implementing EPCRA within the state. This responsibility includes the following:

  • establishing procedures for receiving and processing public requests for information collected under EPCRA
  • establishing local emergency planning districts
  • appointing a local emergency planning committee (LEPC) for each district
  • reviewing local emergency response plans for each LEPC
  • supervising the activities of LEPCs

On May 27, 1987, the Governor issued Executive Order (EO) 276, designating the Massachusetts Civil Defense Agency and Office of Emergency Preparedness as the lead agency for emergency notification, planning, and training. EO 276 was revoked on January 23, 1996 by EO 383. On May 3, 1996, the Governor designated MEMA as the SERC in Massachusetts in a memorandum:

I hereby appoint the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to be the federally required emergency response commission in Massachusetts. As the state agency with expertise in emergency response, MEMA shall have the authority and responsibility to implement the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986, and shall exercise any and all authority delegated to it as a state emergency response commission consistent with the federal law.

MEMA has established a 26-member commission (called the Massachusetts State Emergency Response Commission) to facilitate EPCRA compliance. The members are the MEMA director, who serves as chair; 1 nominated member from each of eight Massachusetts agencies (the Fire Chiefs Association, Department of Fire Services, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Public Health, Association of Hazardous Materials Technicians, Department of Transportation, State Police, and Chiefs of Police Association); 1 nominated member from an environmental organization; 5 voting members appointed by the chair; and 11 nonvoting members appointed by the chair.

According to the commission’s bylaws, its duties include the following:

  1. Coordinating SARA [Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986] Title III training, education, technical assistance and outreach activities;
  2. Appointing and coordinating local and regional emergency planning committees for each district, and reviewing local and regional emergency plans;
  3. Establishing procedures and a system for receiving and processing emergency release reporting, other required information and inventories from covered facilities, and requests from governmental officials or the public for information, including the designation of an official to serve as coordinator for information;
  4. Increasing state and local emergency response capabilities.

Emergency Planning Committees

As noted earlier, the designated state SERC is responsible for establishing emergency planning committees (EPCs) and appointing members to each EPC. However, in Massachusetts, each city or town chooses either to establish an EPC as a single community, in which case the EPC is designated by MEMA as an LEPC, or to establish one as part of a group of communities, in which case the EPC is designated as a regional emergency planning committee (REPC). As of the end of our audit period, of the 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth, 294 had voluntarily organized into 70 LEPCs and 24 REPCs (Appendix), and 57 were not associated with LEPCs or REPCs (Finding 1a).

In 1997, the 26-member commission initiated a voluntary Emergency Planning Committee Certification Program. According to the program’s application form, the program created a process for LEPCs and REPCs to “ensure all EPCs are moving towards meeting the goals and missions of EPCRA.” Certification is also used to establish eligibility for LEPCs and REPCs to receive federal hazardous material emergency planning grant funds that are distributed by MEMA. As of October 2018, there were 49 LEPCs and 15 REPCs participating in the certification program. According to MEMA, of these participants, 31 LEPCs and 11 REPCs had achieved EPCRA compliance.

Tier II Reporting

Tier II or “Community Right to Know” reporting is a requirement, set forth in 42 USC 116(11022), that businesses give information to government agencies and the public about what hazardous materials1 are used or stored at the businesses’ facilities. Any facility that has certain hazardous materials above a threshold established by EPA at any time during the calendar year is required to submit a Tier II report, by March 1 of the next calendar year, to the SERC, the LEPC or REPC, and the local fire department. Information in Tier II reports includes the type of hazardous material, the state it is in (solid, liquid, or gas), the quantity stored, its location at the facility, and contact information for the facility’s designated emergency point of contact. The intent of this reporting requirement is to provide the community with information on what chemicals are present. Tier II reporting also provides government agencies with information about facilities so emergency personnel can respond and make informed decisions. Tier II reporting is a federal obligation imposed by EPA, but reporting is done at the state and local levels.

MEMA has purchased an online reporting system, the Tier II Manager System, that businesses can use to report inventories of hazardous materials that are subject to reporting under EPCRA, as described above. Access to the Tier II Manager System is managed by MEMA personnel. Information collected in the Tier II Manager System can be accessed by first responders throughout the Commonwealth. There were 4,277 Tier II reports filed by Massachusetts businesses for calendar year 2018.

1.    The Environmental Protection Agency defines hazardous materials as substances that may present physical hazards. Information and procedures for handling and working with hazardous materials are maintained on detailed information sheets called Material Safety Data Sheets. Chemical manufacturers provide these sheets to purchasers of hazardous chemicals. More than 500,000 products have such sheets.

Date published: February 27, 2020