Our History

Modern day emergency management was born primarily out of the civil defense era, although its roots can be traced back to as early as 1800 in the United States. The U.S. Office of Civil Defense was established in May 1941 to coordinate civilian defense efforts and programs coordinated directly with the Department of the Army.

Pre – 1950’s

Piecemeal legislation and programs focused on natural disasters. The Reconstruction Finance Corporation and Bureau of Public Roads were both authorized to make loans available for public facility repair and reconstruction after disasters.


The Cold War nuclear attack and subsequent fallout threat led to the proliferation of Civil Defense offices in communities throughout the United States. Programs were primarily managed by retired military personnel.


Local programs continued operation and with the lessons learned from a large earthquake during this period in Alaska, priorities begin to shift back towards preparing and responding to natural disasters.


The City of Council Bluffs and Pottawattamie County create the Pottawattamie County/Municipal Civil Defense Agency under authority and guidance of the Iowa Civil Defense Act of 1959, Chapter 82, Acts of the 58th General Assembly. 

1970’s – 1980’s

Efforts were made to begin synchronizing ad hoc programs across the nation and develop standards for preparedness and response. The incident at Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Station in Pennsylvania broadened the focus to include “technological” hazards.


Chapter 29C, Code of Iowa authorized the creation of joint county-municipal civil defense administrations who were duly organized and authorized to perform specific functions under the laws of the State of Iowa at the local level and have oversight of the created Civil Defense-Joint Disaster Services Agencies.
The Pottawattamie County Joint County-Municipal Civil Defense Administration received a federal grant of $120,550 to construct an Emergency Operations Center as part of the new Pottawattamie County Courthouse construction. [This is equivalent to $560,783 in 2017]


President Jimmy Carter transmitted to Congress, the Reorganization Plan Number 3 in order to consolidate emergency preparedness, mitigation, and response activities into one organization at the federal level. The passage of the plan into law (3 CFR 1978, 5 U.S. Code 903) led to the creation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Programs that were consolidated into FEMA included: National Fire Prevention Control Administration (Dept of Commerce), Federal Insurance Administration (HUD), Federal Broadcast System (Executive Office of the President), Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (DOD), Federal Disaster Assistance Administration (HUD), and the Federal Preparedness Agency (GSA).


Recognition of hazard mitigation and all-hazards approaches were widely embraced. FEMA was elevated to a cabinet level post within the Executive Branch. Chapter 29C, Code of Iowa, 1992, as amended by the 74th General Assembly was intended to mirror efforts, programs, and comply with emergency management efforts at the federal level. The existing Civil Defense Administrations and their agency were redefined as local Emergency Management Commissions. The commission membership was identified in law and called for the creation of a local Emergency Management Agency and appointment of a local emergency management coordinator to implement the legal responsibilities of the commission.


July 1, 1992: The present day Pottawattamie County Emergency Management Agency was created, transitioning from the civil defense era into the modern era of all-hazards emergency management. 


Terrorism became the new primary focus after the attacks of September 11th. FEMA was folded into a newly created U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its mission.


Efforts are enhanced, after many catastrophic events like Hurricanes Rita, Katrina, and Superstorm Sandy, to renew and balance an all-hazards mission focus that includes all potential community threats: natural disaster, technological incidents, and intentional threats such as domestic or international terrorism.


After more than a decade since the 2001 terrorist attacks, creation of the U.S. Dept. of Homealnd Security, passage of laws such as the Post-Katrina Reform Act and similar legislation after Super Storm Sandy, the National Incident Managment System receives a new overhaul incorporating best-practices and lessons learned for implementation at the local, tribal, state, and federal levels.


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In the Spotlight

Hope 4 Iowa

The HOPE 4 IOWA Crisis Call Line connects individuals in crisis to a helping hand and the resources to address and improve mental wellness. Available 24/7. For more information visit our website here.








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Pottawattamie County Emergency Notification System

Pottawattamie Alert is the countywide emergency notification system serving all residents within Pottawattamie County and its communities.

Part of the Alert Iowa System, Pottawattamie Alert is a high-speed notification and weather warning service. This no-charge service is available to businesses and residents of Pottawattamie County and its Communities that allows public officials to warn citizens of pending emergencies, critical public information during disasters, recommended protective actions, and provides automated severe weather warnings tailored to your preferences. The system can also be used to provide other important information to communities.