With another winter storm behind us, and one predicted for next week, many may be thinking about last year’s St. Valentine’s Day Storm, where hundreds of motorists were stranded on several Pennsylvania Interstates for up to 20 hours. For Senator Lisa Baker, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, the anniversary marks a time to review improvements made and identify what work still needs to be done.
“It’s not a matter of if the next storm or emergency situation will happen but when it will happen. We need to be prepared,” said Baker. “Last year’s storm response was a clear indication that major changes needed to be made. We’ve made progress in improving emergency preparedness and response in Pennsylvania, but we still have a long way to go.”
Baker says her committee spent a lot of time gathering public input, talking to experts and providing the necessary oversight to hold state leaders accountable. The administration has filled several critical vacancies at PEMA, implemented procedural changes and developed a traffic diversion plan in the event of back-ups. Baker said improving public communication and emergency notification will continue to be a high priority, as well as elevating PEMA and the Office of Homeland Security to a single cabinet level department.
An important piece of work already underway is to give Pennsylvania drivers access to 24-hour information about traffic and road conditions through a new 511 Traveler Information Service. Baker is hopeful that the 511 legislation she sponsored with Senator Rodger Madigan, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, will receive prompt passage and move to the governor’s desk as soon as possible.
“Many travelers told me they weren’t able to get the information they needed to make informed decisions,” Baker said. “With a 511 travel number, motorists have access to consistent and reliable information before leaving home or while already on the road.”
The report below, “St. Valentine’s Day Storm – A Year Later,” details actions that have been taken, as well as ongoing efforts to provide timely and effective emergency disaster services.
St. Valentine’s Day Storm – A Year Later (PowerPoint)
Independent Report on the Mid February 2007 Winter Storm Response – March 27, 2007 (PDF)
Report on Enhancing Emergency Management in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – November 2007 (PDF)
Contact: Brian Grove