Gov. Whitmer declared a state of emergency - what does that mean?


    State Emergency Operations Center is located at the Michigan State Police Headquarters (Mikenzie Frost/WWMT)

    Late Monday night Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Michigan as cold air began moving in to the state that could challenge records.

    Her declaration launched the State Emergency Operations Center, SEOC, located within the Michigan State Police Headquarters in Diamondale, just outside Lansing. The room filled with large monitors showcasing radar and information coming in at all hours of the day was staffed with about 30 people from various state agencies.

    “Keeping Michiganders safe during this stretch of dangerously cold temperatures is our priority,” Whitmer said in a statement.

    What This Means

    Michigan State Police Captain Emmitt McGowan said the emergency declaration allows for preparation.

    “Simply, it brings attention to what’s going on,” McGowan said.

    All state agencies have a seat in the room to help coordinate resources for communities that request help.

    “If we can’t find it here in the state via our mutual aid partnerships in the state, we go to another state and get it,” he said. “So, whatever that need is, it’s our responsibility here at this office to make sure that every need is met.”

    State Emergency Operations Center,SEOC, is up and running after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency due to cold temperatures (Mikenzie Frost/WWMT)

    District coordinators are located across the state and are responsible for communicating the need to the state for assistance.

    “Maybe we need to deploy more MDOT [Department of Transportation] resources, maybe there’s a significant traffic situation and we need to deploy additional troopers to an area,” explained McGowan.

    While the severe weather remains a risk to Michiganders, McGowan said the SEOC will remain operational.

    “When the emergency conditions no longer exist and the recovery efforts have been made, if they are needed, that’s when we stand down,” he said.

    What This Does Not Mean

    The state of emergency declaration does not impact how or why schools close due to weather; nor does it impact how many days a school district gets to use for weather related closures a year. The declaration also does not impact how or why state agencies close.

    McGowan said the snow Michigan got early in the week is “typical Michigan winter weather” and said that was the sole reason behind the declaration.

    Each state agency has a seat in the SEOC to help coordinate resources to communities in need during an emergency or disaster (Mikenzie Frost/WWMT)

    “Obviously the extreme temperatures kind of take it to another level, which is why we are here where we are right now,” he said.

    What's Next

    Inquiries to the Governor’s Office about when the state of emergency would end were not immediately answered.

    McGowan assured the SEOC would be open as long as necessary and if conditions get worse, there are avenues to work with the federal government to get assistance, too.

    “If things worsen, I’m a direct liaison to the FEMA Region 5 director,” he said.

    Meantime, McGowan urged everyone to be prepared for the cold temperatures.

    “Make sure you have an emergency kit in your car, have food and water,” he said.

    Whitmer took to Twitter to remind people to take precautionary steps in the frigid temperatures.

    Follow Political Reporter Mikenzie Frost on Twitter and Facebook. Send tips to mbfrost@sbgtv.com or (517) 897-4861.

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