Governor Pat McCrory issues a “State of Emergency” in anticipation of heavy snow fall. While it doesn’t happen often, it’s not unheard of. Indeed, many people likely don’t understand what a State of Emergency is. Interestingly, sometimes the Governor’s directives are ignored. . .and what may REALLY surprise people is there can be legal consequences.
North Carolina has adopted the North Carolina Emergency Management Act, which is set forth in NCGS 166A.
The basic purposes are:
To set forth the authority and responsibility of the Governor, State agencies, and local governments in prevention of, preparation for, response to, and recovery from natural or man-made emergencies or hostile military or paramilitary action and to do the following:
(1) Reduce vulnerability of people and property of this State to damage, injury, and loss of life and property.
(2) Prepare for prompt and efficient rescue, care, and treatment of threatened or affected persons.
(3) Provide for the rapid and orderly rehabilitation of persons and restoration of property.
(4) Provide for cooperation and coordination of activities relating to emergency mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery among agencies and officials of this State and with similar agencies and officials of other states, with local and federal governments, with interstate organizations, and with other private and quasi-official organizations.
From a legal perspective, there are some very interesting special protections or provisions within the Act that limit and in some instances, completely absolve individuals and agencies from civil liability. . .lawsuits. The logic behind the provisos is to encourage people and businesses to help. Lawyers sometimes refer to that as a “Good Samaritan Law.”
What is even more interesting is that not only does the government hope that people will help, it also imposes an additional requirement to act responsibly. Ignore a State of Emergency? Need emergency services? Essentially North Carolina says, “We’ll help. . .but you’re paying for it.”
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§ 166A-19.62. Civil liability of persons who willfully ignore a warning in an emergency.
In an emergency, a person who willfully ignores a warning regarding personal safety issued by a federal, State, or local law enforcement agency, emergency management agency, or other governmental agency responsible for emergency management under this Article is civilly liable for the cost of a rescue effort to any governmental agency or nonprofit agency cooperating with a governmental agency conducting a rescue on the endangered person’s behalf if all of the following are true:
(1) The person ignores the warning and (i) engages in an activity or course of action that a reasonable person would not pursue or (ii) fails to take a course of action that a reasonable person would pursue.
(2) As a result of ignoring the warning, the person places himself or herself or another in danger.
(3) A governmental rescue effort is undertaken on the endangered person’s behalf.
So, while as taxpayers we normally enjoy protection by police, fire departments, EMT, etc., if you ignore a State of Emergency directive, you may be civilly liable. Governor McCrory, about an hour ago, issued a State of Emergency. An according to Fox 8 news:
McCrory’s biggest warning to the public: Stay off the roads. “We don’t want people out on the roads tonight where there is serious snowfall,” he said. “Give our crews time to clear the roads.”
Well, there is a bit of a paradox in real life though. What happens if the schools don’t close? What happens if other public buildings are open? What if they don’t cancel court? Should one risk the issuance of an Order for Arrest? Do we ignore the State of Emergency or do we attend a trial setting?
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What, no booze?
Order the cessation of all sales, transportation, manufacture, and bottling of alcoholic beverages
§ 18B-110. Emergency.
When the Governor finds that an emergency, as that term is defined in G.S. 166A-19.3, exists anywhere in this State, the Governor may
(1) Order the closing of all ABC stores; and
(2) Order the cessation of all sales, transportation, manufacture, and bottling of alcoholic beverages.
The Governor’s order shall apply in those portions of the State designated in the order, for the duration of the state of emergency. Any order by the Governor under this section shall be directed to the Chairman of the Commission and to the Secretary of Public Safety.