While attorney general offices are called into duty for a variety of emergency and recovery efforts, the core components of the work of attorneys general in response to disasters include:
- Consumer protection
- Victim services
- Continuity of operations
- Coordination with partners
In the wake of manmade disasters ranging from mass shootings and civil unrest to accidental spills or structure collapses, attorney general offices play many critical roles, including investigations and coordinating a wide range of services for victims.
Building and maintaining strong relationships with partners, including local, state, federal, and community victim service programs, is essential in the smooth coordination of a rapid response, directing resources and services to victims, and communicating information following tragedies such as mass shootings, bombings, or other manmade incidents.
Attorney general offices may also play a role in victim compensation after a manmade incident.
Public outreach is critical before, during, and throughout the process of recovery from natural disasters and manmade incidents to ensure that citizens and businesses are aware of statutes governing price gouging and other deceptive practices. In addition, attorney general offices may need to coordinate messaging with law enforcement partners and public information officers.
Attorney general offices use a combination of traditional media outreach, social media, and other tactics to ensure that their message gets out, including:
- Press briefings
- Alerts and public service announcements for broadcast media
- Updates on websites and social media
Continuity of Operations
Natural disasters and other incidents can cause significant disruption to attorney general’s offices at the times they are needed the most. Attorneys general and their staff must plan ahead to ensure their offices are able to continue operating, even if staff is displaced from physical offices. This often involves developing a continuity of operations (COOP) plan and cross-training staff.
Other considerations may include:
- Planning for continuity of judicial operations, including jails and courts that fall under the office’s purview.
- The impact on other agencies and recovery operations.
- Providing printed copies of attorney general opinions on emergency operations to statewide emergency operations centers.
Coordination with Partners
As chief legal and law enforcement officers for their states, attorneys general are typically on the front lines of disaster response. After initial crisis response, attorney general offices may need to coordinate with local and federal law enforcement agencies as well as to provide advice to state government on coordinating disaster response activities with federal agencies.