A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend certain normal functions of government or may work to alert citizens to alter their normal behaviors or to order government agencies to implement their emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as the rationale for suspending civil liberties; such declarations come during time of natural disaster or during periods of civil unrest or a declaration of war.
In some countries, the state of emergency and its effects on civil liberties are regulated by the constitution and/or a law that limits the powers that may be invoked during an emergency or rights suspended. An example can be found in Art. 2-B of the Executive Law of New York state.
In the United States a federal declaration of a state of emergency allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to excercise its power to deal with emergency situations; federal funds also become available to areas that are declared to be in a state of emergency.
In Spain (estado de emergencia in Spanish) there are three degrees of state of emergency, namely alerta (alarm), excepción (exception?) and sitio (siege). They are named by the constitution, which limits which rights may be suspended, but regulated by the "Ley Orgánica 4/1981" (see external link).
Recent examples include:
- November 2003 in Georgia, following weeks of civil unrest.
- August 2003 in Michigan, Ohio, New York, US and Ontario, Canada, in response to the 2003 U.S.-Canada blackout
- August 2003 in the Philippines
- August 2003 in Portugal, in response to forest fires
- July 2003 in Mexico, in response to a West Nile virus outbreak (estado de emergencia)
- May 2003 in Peru (estado de excepción or estado de sitio depending on the source)
- April 2003 in Mato Grosso, Brasil, in response to torrential rainfall (estado de emergęncia)
- September 2002 in Moscow, Russia, in response to smoke pollution from forest fires
- July 2002 in Paraguay (estado de excepción)
- December 2001 in Argentina (estado de sitio), in response to public unrest
- November 2001 in Nepal, in response to increased guerrilla activity
- September 2001 in the USA, in response to the September 11th Attacks
- March 1992 in Moldavia, in response to ethnic conflict between Romanian and Russian minorities