The Washington Emergency Management Act, chapter
38.52 RCW, provides the authority for the state and political subdivisions to respond to emergencies. The Emergency Management Division of the state Military Department, under the direction of the Adjutant General, is responsible for state coordination during an emergency. Political subdivisions are required to establish local emergency organizations, and the heads of political subdivisions are authorized to respond to emergencies. See generally chapter
38.52 RCW. The Governor may assume direct operational control if there is a disaster beyond local control. RCW 38.52.050(1). Furthermore, the Governor is authorized to proclaim an emergency and issue emergency orders. See chapter
43.06 RCW. The municipal codes of political subdivisions also may contain authorities for local proclamations of emergency and the issuance of emergency orders. See, e.g., chapter
12.52 K.C.C.; chapter
10.02 SMC. The Emergency Management Act defines political subdivisions as any county, city, or town. RCW 38.52.010(3). Therefore, political subdivisions may have concurrent authorities during an emergency.
The statutory definition of "emergency" encompasses emergencies that threaten public health. RCW 38.52.010(6)(a). State and local boards of health, the Secretary of Health, and local health officers have broad authority to protect the public health. See infra § 3.00. The exercise of their authority is independent of a proclamation of an emergency by the Governor or the head of a political subdivision. Therefore, during a communicable disease emergency, the authorities for emergency management and protection of public health could overlap. Overlapping authorities could include:
(1) The authority of heads of political subdivisions to proclaim emergencies and issue emergency orders;
(2) The authority of the Governor to proclaim an emergency and issue emergency orders; and
(3) The authority of local boards of health, local health officers, and the Secretary of Health to protect the public health, which is not dependent on a proclamation of emergency.