States Of Emergency

About The Project

States of Emergency is a project that started in February of 2019 because of my interest in federally declared States of National Emergencies. The goal of the project was to visualize the various emergencies over the history of the United States.

My Role

I designed and developed the site, from ideation to deployment.

The Challenge

From the outset, I knew I wanted to visualize state of emergencies. The initial questions I was mulling around included:

  • how often is a National Emergency declared,
  • how long do National Emergencies last,
  • and how are National Emergencies categorized.

A few challenges presented themselves as I was working through how to visualize the above questions as they relate to states of emergencies, the biggest two being:

  • in what format will others want to see and understand the information,
  • and how to not be deceptive in the manner of presentation of an inherently politically charged topic.

Any design decisions that were made were driven by the above two items.

The Process

Background & Content Analysis

Before designing or implementing anything, I wanted to gain a better understanding of what information is freely available for the states of emergencies we've enacted. The proclamations and executive orders enacted over the years are all archived in the National Archives, providing full-text preservations of the proclamations and executive orders and related start dates and extension dates.

I also looked at information others had put together, including Wikipedia and The New York Times.


Because each proclamation and executive order had been recorded in the National Archives, the information research portion of this project was pretty straight forward. For the design portion of research, I decided to use a time-based bar chart to visualize the national emergencies, allowing for the display of start dates, durations, and categories of each emergency.

Design & Testing

When this project was envisioned, it was only meant to be a static visualization. Once I showed an initial version to friends for feedback, I realized I could use the bar chart to provide links to more information about each national emergency, as well as perform simple statistics about all of the national emergencies. A small backlog of features was created to document features users would like to see while using the visualization.

The Solution & Results

I designed, built, and deployed States of Emergency in a little over a week, using the project as an opportunity to learn Vue.js, a library that helps create user interfaces. Along with the core visualization, simple statistics are calculated automatically and displayed to the user, including:

  • how many national emergencies we've enacted,
  • how many national emergencies are in effect,
  • a breakdown of in-effect national emergencies by category,
  • how often a national emergency is declared,
  • and how long a national emergency lasts.

Users can click each national emergency in the visualization to learn details of the emergency, including:

  • who declared the national emergency,
  • the name of the national emergency declaration,
  • a summary of the declaration,
  • when it was declared,
  • when it ended,
  • and a full-text representation of the proclamation or executive order that declared the national emergency.