Wildfires are burning across Northern California with tens of thousands of people being evacuated from their homes. There have been 15 confirmed deaths and at least 200 people that are reported missing.

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, Monday, in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba Counties due to the widespread of the fires.

So, what does a state emergency declaration actually mean for California and what follows after its been issued?

Every state is unique when issuing an Emergency Declaration but generally a governor may declare it using an executive order or some declaration form, according to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO). Emergencies can also be declared by state health officers or executive officers but may require approval by the governor or legislation.

The declaration generally addresses conditions to the emergency, agencies leading the response and relief efforts, geographical areas of the state covered, and dates and duration of the declaration.

The ASTHO also says certain actions are followed by a state of emergency declaration which can include the activation of:

• State emergency response plans and mutual aid agreements.
• Operations center and an incident command system (ICS).
• Expending funds and deploying personnel, equipment, supplies and stockpiles.
• Statutory immunities and liability protections for people in response activities.
• Suspension or waiver of rules and regulations.
• Streamlining state administrative procedures like procurement requirements.