Analysis of the New Jersey Civil Defense and Disaster Control Act through a Modern Emergency Management Frame

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Daniel Cunning


Emergency management in the state of New Jersey has been guided largely by the New Jersey Civil Defense and Disaster Control Act of 1942 (the Act).[1] Portions of the associated legislation from the Act have been amended many times over the last 75 years. However, the Act has not been systemically evaluated as a whole in decades. Emergency management in New Jersey has meanwhile been tested by—and has adapted as a result of—many incidents and disasters, including natural, technological, and man-made causes.

With ever-increasing expectations being placed on state and local emergency managers by various stakeholders, including the general public, the laws and directives in the state of New Jersey governing emergency management must ensure a defined, understood, and achievable mission, and clearly delineated responsibilities at each level of government. New Jersey needs a comprehensive evaluation of the Act and the corresponding New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (NJOEM) directives. This thesis addresses how emergency management in New Jersey can be modified based on a comprehensive analysis of the New Jersey Civil Defense and Disaster Control Act of 1942 and the corresponding NJOEM directives.

The statutes of the Act are evaluated to, first, develop a comprehensive map of emergency management in the state, and second, to determine the impact of modifying the laws to improve emergency management in the state. Particular attention is focused on the modifications needed at the municipal level of government. Positive modifications made to the statutes and directives affecting municipal government and giving the municipal emergency management coordinators (EMCs) the tools they need to succeed will lessen the burdens on county and state emergency managers.

Each statute was analyzed against five criteria created based on national, acceptable practice of emergency management, and issues specific to New Jersey:

  • Alignment with federal guidance
  • Alignment with recommendations from reports issued to the NJOEM
  • Significance to the practice and profession of emergency management
  • Duplication between the Act and the NJOEM directives
  • Language changes needed to correct errors and inconsistencies

Based on the aforementioned criteria, a final determination is made, and each statute is marked as needing one of the following: no change, modification, or repeal. The NJOEM directives are analyzed using the same criteria and given the same final determination markings.

After capturing the data from the initial analysis on a matrix, 12 emergency management professionals representing different agencies and levels of government were asked questions regarding the Act, the content of the matrix, and the final determination markings of the statutes. The data collected from these professionals was used to make additional changes to the statutes, or to alter the final determination markings. This iterative process resulted in a more thorough analysis based on broad input from experienced users of the Act, who know and understand how emergency management and the Act function in New Jersey. Figures 1 and 2, respectively, show the percentage of statutes and directives in each category.

[1] New Jersey Civilian Defense and Disaster Control Act, New Jersey General and Permanent Statutes Appendix A Emergency and Temporary Acts § chap. 9 (1942), Office of Legislative Services,

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