What Does State of Emergency Mean For Hurricanes? It's Been Declared In Multiple States So Far

People everywhere, from Miami to the Florida-Georgia border, are under mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders due to conditions caused by Hurricane Matthew. You may have heard that President Obama declared a state of emergency in states threatened by Hurricane Matthew on Thursday, but what does that mean in the case of a hurricane?

States of emergency have been declared in Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia. Obama's declaration of a state of emergency in Florida orders "federal aid to supplement state, tribal, and local response efforts," according to the White House announcement. It also authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as well as the Department of Homeland Security to "coordinate all disaster relief efforts." This, in turn, should reduce "the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures."

The announcement comes on the heels of Florida Governor Rick Scott's declaration of a state of emergency in all Florida counties. And he wasn't the only one. Governor Nikki Haley declared a state of emergency in South Carolina on Tuesday, and Georgia Governor Nathan Deal expanded Georgia's state of emergency to include 30 counties.

The state of emergency allows governors' offices to deploy resources like the State Emergency Response Team, which encompasses different fields, including law enforcement, military support, infrastructure, and more. For example, Scott has activated 200 members of the Florida National Guard, and he has 6,000 more guardsmen standing by to be activated if needed, according to a government news release. Obama's declaration has a similar meaning to the states of emergency declared by governors, but it brings in federal funding and agencies as resources during the natural disaster.

Even though a state of emergency has been announced, not everyone is complying with mandatory evacuation orders. People who don’t evacuate probably won’t be arrested, but there are other consequences that could be far worse for their safety. Utilities could be damaged and unavailable due to damage from the hurricane, and residents could be stranded and isolated. If you refuse to evacuate and face an emergency during the storm, you also won’t be able to count on public safety officials.

“If you get an evacuation order, just remember you can always rebuild, you can always repair property,” Obama said during a visit to FEMA headquarters on Wednesday, CBS reported. “You cannot restore a life if it is lost."

There are several ways to make sure you are informed of all procedures and up-to-date information concerning Hurricane Matthew. States have activated their emergency information lines: The Florida Emergency Information Line can be reached at 1 (800) 342-3557, the Georgia Emergency Management & Homeland Security Agency has put out a list of Georgia county emergency contacts, and the South Carolina Emergency Management Division allows South Carolinians to sign up for emergency alerts. You can also follow FEMA on Twitter: @FEMA.