Public Safety, Emergency Preparedness Focus of Hearing Led by Barrar and Hackett in Media
MEDIA – With Hurricane Isaac dumping inches of rain and forcing families to evacuate their homes along the Gulf of Mexico, Reps. Stephen E. Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware), majority chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, and Joe Hackett (R-Delaware), committee member, Wednesday hosted a hearing in Media to examine legislation that would update the Commonwealth’s emergency preparedness and response laws to address natural disasters, terrorism and other threats to Pennsylvania.
House Bill 2562 was introduced by Barrar to update Title 35 with language drafted by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) after an extensive review of Pennsylvania’s entire emergency management program.
“I collaborated very closely with PEMA in developing this legislation, and these hearings are about giving our local emergency management coordinators, first responders and other stakeholders an opportunity to comment and suggest modifications to the language of the bill,” said Barrar. “We all have a part to play in protecting Pennsylvanians during times of crisis, and we all deserve a voice in the process. I thank today’s participants for their input, which will help us to craft the best possible legislation for our citizens.”
Title 35 has not been updated since 1996 – before the September 11 terrorist attacks, the double impact of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, and significant revisions to federal law.
“As a former police officer, I can assure you that the work of our emergency responders involves far more than rescuing homeowners during the darkest moments of a catastrophe,” Hackett said. “Emergency preparedness begins well in advance by anticipating every kind of disaster, including those that are rare for our state, but could be cataclysmic without a workable, reliable plan. That’s why it’s critical that we hear from those on the frontlines.”
The committee heard testimony from Bob Full, chief deputy director for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency; Martin Till, president and chief executive officer of the Penn-Jersey Advance and publisher of the Easton Express-Times; Angel Gillette, president of the eastern region of the Keystone Emergency Management Association; Robert Kagel, deputy director of emergency management for the Chester County Department of Emergency Services; Randy Gockley, director of emergency management for the Lancaster County Department of Emergency Services; and Eric Fish, senior legislative counsel for the Uniform Law Commission.
Fish testified about the need for language that would allow licensing reciprocity with other states during times of emergency declaration. This would permit nurses, veterinarians and other out-of-state licensed health care professionals to lend support during times of disaster.
Other discussions focused on the need for greater funding at the local level, the continued decline in local volunteers and media access to information during emergencies.
“It is important for us to continually review and update our emergency management plans,” said Barrar. “As we watch the disaster in the Gulf unfold, we will get to witness whether or not Louisiana’s preventative actions and planning since Hurricane Katrina have worked. Last year, the Commonwealth had its own twin disasters, which caused the deaths of several individuals, wreaked millions of dollars in damage, and demonstrated the need to modernize Title 35, which is what we are here today to do.”
More information about Barrar is available at www.SteveBarrar.com
. Hackett posts information at www.RepHackett.com
State Representative Steve Barrar
160th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
State Representative Joe Hackett
161st District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Nicole Wamsley