Dallas – The Senate approved legislation to enable counties and municipalities to better respond to emergencies and disasters, according to Senator Lisa Baker, who chairs the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.
“It makes sense to work together and streamline emergency response efforts to make the best use of resources at critical times,” Baker said. “But without a clearly defined division of responsibility among state, county and local governments, it is difficult for our emergency responders to cooperate in providing services.”
The measure, which now goes to the House for consideration, would address the issue by creating a statewide model to standardize procedures for providing mutual assistance and sharing resources. The mutual aid agreement would also limit confusion about liability, workers compensation coverage and other questions that arise when emergency assistance is provided across jurisdictions, such as when a volunteer fire company enters a neighboring service territory to lend a hand.
Baker noted that lack of mutual aid contributed to the breakdown in communications and cooperation that stranded motorists during last year’s St. Valentine’s Day storm and said an effective and coordinated approach to emergency management requires mutual aid agreements.
The recommendation to develop a model to define mutual aid was made following a comprehensive review of fire and emergency services conducted in 2003. Pennsylvania is currently one of only 15 states without a formal agreement.
The bill, introduced by Senator John Pippy and co-sponsored by Senator Baker, was drafted based on a national model developed in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Contact: Lee Ann Labecki