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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: January 22, 2013 03:26 PM
From: Senator Lisa Baker
To: All Senate members
Subject: Baker/Extensive Update of the Emergency Management Services Section of Title 35 (Health and Safety)
 



Please join me in co-sponsoring comprehensive legislation to update the Emergency Management Services section of Title 35 (Health and Safety). Since 1996, when the law was last overhauled, the emergency response network has improved greatly at the federal, state, regional, county, and municipal levels, reflecting lessons learned from 9/11; Hurricanes Katrina, Irene, and Sandy; the Valentine’s Day snowstorm; and other natural and manmade disasters.

By overhauling this section of Title 35, Pennsylvania law will incorporate changes in federal laws and regulations –including the formation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2002 -- and numerous changes in practice throughout our response network to respond to technological innovation and the ongoing threat of terrorism and natural disasters. The law will improve the coordination of activities related to disaster preparedness and emergency management.

This legislation is the product of years of negotiation among numerous stakeholders, including the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), the Keystone Emergency Management Association (KEMA), the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP), the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), and first responders. It was the subject of a hearing before the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee in 2008. A similar bill, House Bill 2562 of last session, was the subject of a series of hearings by the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee last summer.

The Senate version, which was Senate Bill 1539 of last session, accomplishes the following changes:

  • Provides a framework for responding to all hazards, instead of differentiating between natural, man-made, and “war-caused” disasters. This framework includes the process of declaring a disaster, seeking federal help, ordering evacuations, and providing temporary housing,
  • Outlines the role of the regional counter-terrorism task forces, created after 9/11 but not reflected in current law.
  • Establishes and expands the membership of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Council.
  • Incorporates the National Incident Management System (NIMS) into state law and local practice as a comprehensive, systematic approach to incident management.
  • Defines the role of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) to develop a comprehensive emergency management and preparedness system for the state.
  • Establishes the role of the State Police in leading law enforcement matters, using sensitive information, and handling matters of criminal prosecution.
  • Encourages mutual assistance and resource-sharing among political subdivisions.
  • Provides for the appointment, skills, and training of county emergency management coordinators and the filling of vacancies.
  • Sets up a State Emergency Registry of Volunteers in PA—“SERVPA”—to register volunteers online for deployment during emergencies and disasters.
  • Provides for the operation, organization, activation and funding of regional task forces and specialized task force teams, including urban search and rescue teams
  • Requires every dependent care facility, including schools, to develop an all-hazards emergency action plan.
  • Provides for temporary isolation and quarantine measures during a public health emergency such as a bioterrorist event, chemical attack, or nuclear attack, and outlines the role of the Department of Health in such occurrences.

At the request of the Uniform Law Commission, a new section to Title 35 will be added to incorporate the Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act, already adopted in 14 states. The legislation recognizes professional licenses issued by other states to health care professionals, including veterinarians and mortuary workers, during emergencies if the professionals volunteer in Pennsylvania through a host organization that cooperates with state or local emergency management agencies. To qualify for license recognition, professionals must be registered with a system operated by a state agency, non-governmental disaster relief agency, or a national or regional association of health care professionals which certifies that the professionals are licensed and in good standing in their home states. They must also comply with any restrictions or limitations imposed by PEMA, the Department of Health or the local agencies. The legislation also clarifies the permissible scope of practice of volunteers and the extent to which volunteers and agencies deploying volunteers are granted limited immunity from civil liability and to which volunteers may be granted eligibility for workers compensation benefits that are otherwise available under the Emergency Management Code for emergency response personnel.

The Uniform Act has been endorsed by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Bar Association, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the American Public Health Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Red Cross, the ASPCA, the United Way of America, and related organizations.

Thank you for considering your co-sponsorship of this pivotal public safety measure.




Introduced as SB35