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Minnesota Agencies

Information on Minnesota State Agencies, Boards, Task Forces, and Commissions

Compiled by the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library

Civil Defense Department

Active dates:1951-1969
Function: Plans for and carries out "emergency actions, other than military, to minimize and repair damage resulting from enemy attack or sabotage." (Legislative manual, 1961-62, p. 182.) Also plans for and carries out emergency services required as a result of natural disasters.
History: The Civil Defense Department, created pursuant to the Civil Defense Act of 1951 (Laws 1951 c694), functioned in a nonmilitary capacity to prepare and protect the state and its population in the event of a disaster resulting from enemy attack. Prior to the act, the Executive Council was responsible for civil defense procedures and emergency relief (Minn. Stat. 1949 s9.28 subd. 6). The governor assumed general supervision of the department in all functions concerning civil defense, and the department operated in cooperation with the federal government, other state governments, and private agencies. The department designed and implemented a state plan for civil defense that would warn and provide safety and disaster assistance to the population; and would provide volunteer services to assist the military in detecting and averting enemy attack.

In 1953, department responsibility was expanded to include emergency services in the event of natural disasters (Laws 1953 c745s2). The governor appointed a department director to carry out civil defense plans and programs, and to oversee such activities throughout the state. The state plan was based on mobilization at the local level, and counties, municipalities, and other political subdivisions of the state were authorized to establish local defense organizations, in accordance with the general state plan. Mobile Support Areas, consisting of blocks of counties, and Unicom Divisions, including the Twin Cities area and surrounding counties, were organized to reinforce civil defense organizations in local areas. Ground Observer Corps were established throughout the state to aid the U.S. Air Force in the detection of enemy aircraft. An advisory council made policy recommendations, and assisted in the development and operation of all civil defense programs and plans. The council members served without compensation, and included the governor, the civil defense director, various state and municipal officials, and representatives of agriculture, industry, labor, and the League of Minnesota Municipalities. The department established emergency communication lines within the state and with the federal government; initiated air raid warning services; set up auxiliary police and fire protection units, and shelters, hospitals, and other disaster assistance centers for persons who might be evacuated from their homes; and administered various other disaster preparedness programs. Legislative appropriations provided for payment of expenses incurred in planning and executing programs, and for the salaries of the civil defense director and other staff members. Local government subdivisions also were empowered to make appropriations for similar purposes in cooperation with the department.

The department became the Civil Defense Division of the Public Safety Department in 1969 (Laws 1969 c1129 art 1 s14), and the Emergency Services Division in 1974 (Laws 1974 c428).
Agency heads: Directors: E. B. Miller, 1951-1955; Hubert A. Schon, 1955-1960; Roy V. Aune, 1960-1970?
News clippings and documents. Agencies Notebook Collection, 1955-1971.
Record last updated: 02/12/2013

All information on this group from the Library’s collection of agency notebooks has been digitized. These materials are incorporated into the “documents/articles” section of the record. Please contact a librarian with any questions. The Minnesota Agencies database is a work in progress.

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