Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

How a state of emergency works

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The province's Emergency Measures Act allows the minister -- in this case, the aptly named Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton -- to declare a province-wide state of emergency. That's what happened Monday.

Under the act, a mayor and council can also declare a state of local emergency, also known as a SoLE, in their town or rural municipality. There have been several of those during this spring's flood battle.

Flood Fight

A state of emergency can help a government take care of some formalities, like putting an emergency plan into effect, spending money that wasn't in the budget and closing roads.

It can also allow a town or province to force an evacuation or quarantine people or livestock.

Then it gets serious.

As long as it's part of fending off a disaster, governments can use a state of emergency to enter a home, trespass on property without permission or seize personal effects, like equipment.

They can also press people with needed skills into service, such as equipment operators, doctors or sandbaggers. And a state of emergency gives government the right to "authorize the procurement and distribution of essential resources" like food, water and medicine.

A state of emergency is valid for two weeks, but it can be extended.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2011 A5

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