Friday, August 26, 2011

The United States of Emergency

It’s been a wild week for weather around Duke Law. On Tuesday afternoon, the Southeast was rocked by a rare 5.8-magnitude earthquake, which rattled our library windows and library users alike, but caused no lasting problems in this area (although our nation’s capital, closer to the quake’s epicenter in Virginia, sustained some damage to national monuments). Now, North Carolina’s coast is bracing for a direct hit from Hurricane Irene, which is expected to make landfall on the Outer Banks today before heading toward New York City.

Currently, the effects of Irene here in the Research Triangle are expected to be comparatively minimal, although meteorologists predict a soaking rain on Saturday along with some high winds, which could cause flash flooding and power outages in the Durham area. Duke University is monitoring the situation carefully, and the Goodson Law Library will announce any emergency closures this weekend on our website. You can also sign up for Duke Alert emails and text messages at, which will send an instant alert if the University invokes its Severe Weather Policy.

In the meantime, you’ve probably heard a lot about “state of emergency” declarations in the news, at both the state and federal levels of government. On Thursday morning, North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue issued a state of emergency for counties east of Interstate 95, and on Thursday evening, President Obama signed a federal state of emergency declaration for North Carolina. Why the double layer of emergency orders? In a word: money. The President’s state of emergency declaration authorizes the federal government to provide disaster relief and assistance to the state in question. For an overview of the process, check out the helpful background information in the Congressional Research Service report, FEMA’s Disaster Declaration Process: A Primer (May 18, 2011), available online at

To learn more about emergency management and disaster relief, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). To access the treasure trove of research information in CRS reports, check out the CRS Reports section of our guide to Federal Legislative History, or Ask a Librarian.