"Declared A State Of Emergency"
What We Think It Means:
Wow, the governor declared a state of emergency? This is like when that old guy in Return of the King gave up and told everyone to abandon their posts -- all hope is lost! Or maybe it's like declaring martial law? All schools and businesses will shut down, naturally. And maybe we'll all be locked in our homes, Stormtroopers assuming control of all the toiletries, and soon we'll have to wipe our butts with broken glass as they hold guns to our heads.
This'll make Order 66 look like Order 61.
It Actually Means:
Wrote to request central funds.
States and the federal government have emergency funds. They release these only when an emergency is in progress. In declaring a state of emergency, a mayor or governor requests/authorizes the release of this state or federal money. Emergency responders also count as emergency resources, so declaring a state of emergency permits them to enter the affected area more easily. If the emergency is a riot and you're worried about emergency responders shooting you, yeah, the news isn't great, but the emergency declaration doesn't give those guys any extra powers, and when the emergency is a natural disaster, we're generally talking about new assistance for everyone.
in advance, for an emergency that doesn't end up happening.
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You can even declare in advance, for an emergency that doesn't end up happening.
A "state of emergency" has nothing to do with draconian rules or extraordinary measures (not in the US at least -- other countries have all kinds of ways of using the phrase). Declaring it doesn't tell us things are bad; we already knew how bad they were. Declaring is a procedural move related to resource allocation. States of emergency, incidentally, shouldn't be confused with national emergencies, which are a different concept and potentially give the president various powers. Historically, national emergencies have almost never been related to natural disasters (there was just the H1N1 outbreak and now the COVID one), and most of the time, they've been used to enact international sanctions.