Joint Senate/House Panel Receives Testimony on Restructuring Pennsylvania’s Emergency Response System

HARRISBURG – On Wednesday, May 14, 2008, the Senate and House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness committees held a public hearing as part of an ongoing effort to improve Pennsylvania’s statewide emergency response system. Committee chairs Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) and Representative Tony Melio (D-Bucks) were among those exploring how changes to the current system could improve the way state and local partners work together to prepare for and respond to emergencies.

“While much has been done to enhance Pennsylvania’s emergency readiness in recent months, continued improvement will require reevaluating our state’s laws that govern the emergency management process,” Baker said. “Elevating the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to cabinet status and merging it with the Office of Homeland Security are necessary to improving coordination, communication and ultimately performance.”

Also essential to this effort is ensuring that prevention, planning, response, and recovery phases are considered during the development of emergency plans. Emergency management officials and fire and emergency medical service representatives explained how adopting an All Hazards philosophy and central command and control model will bring Pennsylvania into compliance with the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

Representative Melio believes that greater involvement by the private sector in emergency planning is also a necessary step. “The private sector owns approximately 90 percent of all critical infrastructure,” said Representative Melio. “Clearly this is not something that the state can plan for in isolation.”

The hearing provided an opportunity to consider verbal and written comments from the emergency management and county officials most directly impacted by proposed changes.

The Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness committees will schedule additional hearings to receive further testimony from local government associations and other vital partners in the emergency management community.

A video of the hearing and copies of testimony can be viewed at senatorbaker.com.

 Contact: Lee Ann Labecki
(717) 787-7438