What Is a State of Emergency?
A state of emergency can be declared by the Governor of Massachusetts in the event or imminent threat of a disaster. Under a state of emergency, the Governor has the power to take extraordinary steps to protect the Commonwealth. Chapter 639 if the Acts of 1950, for example, spells out the steps the Governor can take in response to a natural or man-made disaster. A state of emergency may cover a specific municipality, multiple communities, or the entire Commonwealth.
What Does a State of Emergency Mean For You?
Declaring a state of emergency helps state agencies protect you from the immediate dangers of a disaster, in part by providing resources for rescue, shelter, or evacuation. The instructions you receive during a state of emergency will depend on the emergency itself — every situation is different, and different factors will impact the decisions made by state officials. Pay close attention to news media and stay informed.
Travel Ban — A state of emergency does not automatically mean that a travel ban is in place. Officials may implement travel restrictions if necessary.
Closures — A state of emergency does not automatically mean that schools, businesses, and government offices are closed,
- Businesses —The Governor does not establish specific disaster policies for individual businesses, but may encourage businesses to send employees home or remain closed. In extreme cases, the Governor may order businesses to close. Large and small private businesses should make informed decisions about delayed openings, cancellations, and closures.
- Schools — The Governor and MEMA do not make the decision to close or delay schools. Although some districts may have established policies about closing during a State of Emergency, each school district should make informed decisions based on local conditions.
- Government Offices — The Governor's state of emergency declaration does not automatically close state offices. State employees can call 2-1-1 to check on the status of state office closings. Executive office employees will be informed of closure through internal notification plans, Mass.gov, and the media. The decision to close non-executive offices — such as the court system, legislative branch, and state university system — is made by their respective leadership.
Executive Orders — Under a state of Emergency, the Governor is authorized to issue executive orders to meet the needs of a threat, emergency, or disaster. These Orders are to be treated as law and may override existing law for the course of the disaster.
The Governor is authorized to exercise any and all authority over persons and property necessary to protect the public. Depending on the disaster, this may include taking and using property for the protection of the Commonwealth. Ordering evacuations, implementing curfews, or enacting other restrictions can be used to protect public health and welfare if warranted.
When Does a State of Emergency End?
The Governor will end the state of emergency when it is no longer needed to keep residents safe or conduct emergency business. Travel bans, curfews, or other actions implemented during a state of emergency may end at different times after the declaration is over.
Is There Financial Assistance After an Emergency?
The Commonwealth will not necessarily offer financial assistance to individuals or communities affected by a disaster in a state of emergency. While there is no state disaster relief fund, the Massachusetts legislature may choose to vote on separate disaster assistance funding. Depending on the impact of the disaster, there may also be financial assistance available through other sources:
Past State of Emergency Declarations
|9/12/23||9/16/23||Severe Weather & Flooding|
|8/8/23||Pending||Shelter Capacity Crisis|
|9/14/18||10/4/18||Merrimack Valley Gas Explosion|
|6/1/11||6/2/11 & 6/19/11||Tornadoes|