NDDES BuildingThe genesis of the emergency management component of North Dakota Department of Emergency Services (NDDES) can be traced to the Civil Defense Act of 1951. The statewide communications function was also established during the 1951 Legislative Session and State Radio became operational in 1952 at the Bismarck Airport. By 1968, State Radio was located at what is now Building 35 at Fraine Barracks.

The Division of Emergency Management and State Radio Communications were combined in 2003 to establish an integrated State Operations Center. Two years later, action during the 59th Legislative Assembly created NDDES comprised of the Division of Homeland Security and State Radio Communications.

Culminating in 1979 with the creation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the emphasis changed from nuclear preparedness to coordinating natural disaster preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery activities. In addition to its disaster and statewide emergency communications roles, the department maintains homeland security responsibilities. It operates in a dynamic environment that encompasses an increasing number of natural disasters, prevention activities to deal with continuously evolving security threats, and the ever-present need to improve state infrastructure to provide interoperable communications resulting in efficient and reliable public safety services. Its mission is to conduct planning, coordination, communications, and operations for the safety and security of all North Dakota citizens.

The Adjutant General, MG Alan S. Dohrmann, serves as Director and is Chairman of the Department of Emergency Services Advisory Committee (DESAC) charged to provide direction and guidance in policy formation. Its members represent major customer and stakeholder constituencies that include local and state law enforcement, public health, emergency medical services, city and county government, local fire services, local emergency management, private enterprise, information technology and statewide 9-1-1 services. 

The department provides 24/7 emergency communications and resource coordination with more than 50 lead and support agencies, private enterprise, and voluntary organizations to assist local jurisdictions in disaster and emergency response activities. It administers federal disaster recovery programs and the Homeland Security Grant Program. NDDES also manages the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) that serves as a national clearinghouse through which member states may request and provide mutual aid assistance.

Local and tribal governments maintain direct responsibility for initial response to incidents, emergencies, disasters, or catastrophes. Local emergency managers serve a key role in coordinating response and recovery efforts by providing situational awareness and accompanying resource requirements. NDDES supports response and recovery coordination with emergency managers in each county and tribal nation within the state of North Dakota as well as the cities of Bismarck and Fargo.

The State Radio Communications System has over four thousand users representing two hundred and eighty-seven agencies of the local, state, and the federal government. The Division of State Radio coordinates 9-1-1 services as well as emergency medical, fire, and law enforcement response for twenty-five North Dakota counties and is the designated back-up for eight of the other public service answering points throughout the state, serving as a secondary backup for an additional eight. State Radio is the primary dispatch center for N.D. Highway Patrol, Game and Fish, various other state and federal agencies, and also respond to calls for emergency assistance across the state. Statewide communication services ensure necessary resources are dispatched for emergency response.