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The MPA in Emergency and Disaster Management
Disaster Central
MCNY's Emergency and Disaster Management Blog

Special Powers Legislation, Terrorism, and Emergency Management

August 4, 2008

Throughout history, governments have during times of crisis devised and/or enacted special powers legislation as part of their efforts to thwart acts of terrorism, the growth of insurgency movements, and to allow for a more effective response to emergency situations.  In some instances, this special powers legislation has taken the form of martial law or curfews in the wake of a hydrological or seismological event, while in others it has resulted in significant changes to national law, protocol, and tradition.  In the United States, many on both sides of the political aisle point to the USA PATRIOT ACT as an example of special powers legislation – there are, however, differing views as to its efficacy and Constitutional legitimacy, and each side has its respective strengths and weaknesses.

There may also prove future instances where special powers legislation might be needed to enable a more robust response to, and recovery from, a catastrophic event.  Emergency managers at all levels of government may want to consider those scenarios under which special powers legislation might be needed, and what form this legislation would take.  In addition to curfews, special powers legislation might extend to containment and quarantine regulations and procedures, or to the handling of hundreds of thousands of decedent remains in an expeditious manner.  As part of their respective preparedness matrices, Emergency Management planners and policymakers may wish to consider the value and appropriateness of special powers legislation in advance of a catastrophic event.

What are your thoughts on the use of special or emergency powers legislation as a strategy and a tactic in the Emergency Management and Homeland Security communities?  Should there be limits to special powers legislation, and should all legislation of this type contain “sunset” or “renewal” clauses?  Is it possible that special powers legislation successfully prevents acts of terrorism?

Disaster Central welcomes your thoughts and insights.

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Posted by Disaster Central in Anti-Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism, Emergency Management Planning, Homeland Security. Comments Off

Disaster Central is also a resource for information relating to MCNY’s MPA program in Emergency Management and Homeland Security, as well as providing insight and commentary on the topics of Disaster Management, Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

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