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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 3, 2014 03:06 PM
From: Senator Lisa Baker
To: All Senate members
Subject: Updating the Emergency Management Section of Title 35

Please join me in co-sponsoring comprehensive legislation to update the Emergency Management Services section of Title 35 (Health and Safety) to enhance Pennsylvania’s ability to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural and manmade disasters.

This pivotal law has not been modernized since 1996, although our emergency response network has improved dramatically over the past 20 years. My bill will allow Pennsylvania’s law to incorporate recent modifications to our emergency response network at the federal, state and local levels, reflecting the lessons learned from September 11, 2001; 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 formally acknowledge in statute the formation and role of the federal and state Offices of Homeland Security, the Regional Counter-Terrorism Task Forces, and numerous other changes designed to keep pace with technology and newly emerging global threats. The law will also improve the coordination of disaster preparedness and emergency management endeavors.

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 has been the subject of hearings by both the Senate and House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committees.

In detail, my bill, which was Senate Bill 35 of last session, would accomplish the following changes:

  • Provide a framework for responding to all hazards, instead of differentiating among natural, manmade, and “war-caused” disasters. This framework includes the process of declaring a disaster, seeking federal help, ordering evacuations, and providing temporary housing;
  • Outline the role of the regional counter-terrorism task forces, created after 9/11 but not reflected in current law;
  • Establish and expand the membership of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Council;
  • Incorporate the National Incident Management System (NIMS) into state law and local practice as a comprehensive, systematic approach to incident management;
  • Define the role of PEMA to develop a comprehensive emergency management and preparedness system for the state;
  • Establish the role of the State Police in leading law enforcement matters, using sensitive information, and handling matters of criminal prosecution;
  • Encourage mutual assistance and resource-sharing among political subdivisions;
  • Provide for the appointment, skills, and training of county emergency management coordinators and the filling of vacancies;
  • Set up a State Emergency Registry of Volunteers, known as “SERVPA,” to register volunteers online for deployment during emergencies and disasters;
  • Provide for the operation, organization, activation and funding of regional task forces and specialized task force teams, including urban search and rescue teams;
  • Require every dependent care facility, including schools, to develop an all-hazards emergency action plan;
  • Provide for temporary isolation and quarantine measures during a public health emergency such as a bioterrorist event, chemical attack, or nuclear attack, and outline the role of the Department of Health in such occurrences; and
  • Recognize professional licenses issued by other states to health care professionals in good standing during emergencies.

Thank you for considering this important legislation.

Introduced as SB35