The mission of emergency management is to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from technological and natural disasters. Emergency management is located at all levels of government, starting with city moving up to county, then state, and the federal level. Some areas have a city/county emergency management office, while others keep them separate.
City and county offices are considered local and respond first to an event. If the event exceeds their resources, they may request state aid. This is usually done by the Chief Elected Officer (Mayor or designee). If the event exceeds the state resources, then a request may be initiated for federal aid. This request is usually completed by the governor or his/her designee.
The federal system is currently maintained by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This Agency has been merged with the Department of Homeland Security. FEMA coordinates with @23 agencies to perform emergency management duties. An emergency disaster declaration or major disaster declaration may be issued if an event warrants. The latter is usually signed by the President. Both free up federal resources to respond and recover from an event.
There are two types of aid in a major disaster declaration, they are public assistance (PA) and individual assistance (IA). Public assistance is for cities, counties, and states, for repairing infrastructure. Individual assistance is for citizens. Declarations are issued at the county level and a particular county may get PA or IA or both. FEMA is governed by Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
Mitigation – Reduce or eliminate the affects of a hazard. Preparedness – Train personnel and perform exercises to test personnel. Response – Respond to event, may include local officials (police, fire, emergency management) up to the federal level. Recovery (short term) – Immediate assistance to get the community functioning and self sustaining. Recovery (long term) – Return the community to pre-disaster condition.
A variety of assistance is offered after a disaster occurs. You are encouraged to register with FEMA if you are affected by an event and a disaster declaration is issued.
There is plenty of information on the Internet about emergency management. The FEMA link above is a good starting point.