Military agencies play a role in emergency management, most often through the Army National Guard, the Air National Guard, and the U.S. Coast Guard. The Army National Guard was formed in 1636 by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Currently it has 340,000 members. They receive military training with the understanding that during wartime they can be mobilized. The Air National Guard, formed in 1947, serves essentially the same function and can also be called into active duty in time of war. The Coast Guard is made up of active duty, reserve, and civilian personnel and protects the coastal boundaries of the United States.
During wartime, the National Guard is under the jurisdiction of the federal government, but in peace-time the troops are under the jurisdiction of state governments. Each state maintains its own National Guard bureau that works with local authorities during emergency situations. In its role as a state-run agency, the National Guard’ role is to mobilize where a crisis has occurred and use its training to help local authorities deal with the crisis situation. National Guard troops help reinforce dams and dikes threatened by floods, help contain forest fires, and offer emergency aid after hurricanes and tornadoes. The Coast Guard assists with ocean disasters (such as oil spills).
There are more than 1,800 National Guard units located in 2,700 communities across the United States. Guard members can fly helicopters and drive trucks that transport supplies, injured and sick people, and emergency materials (such as sandbags to help combat rising waters in flood situations).