The Erie County Department of Public Safety’s Emergency Management division is responsible for mitigating, preparing for, responding to and recovering from disasters. This community-wide partnership involves municipal, county, state and federal governments; authorities; businesses and industries; nonprofit community organizations; faith-based organizations; schools; and private citizens.
The very first tier of emergency management starts with you and your family. When a disaster strikes, you must act to protect yourself and your family. When the disaster is outside the scope of what you or your family can handle, local government responds. When municipal governments need help, they contact and coordinate with the county. When county officials need assistance, they first go to their regional partners, and then to the state. If the disaster is of a magnitude that state resources are not enough, the governor can request that the president declare a disaster. Very few disasters reach this magnitude.
Your Role in Emergency Management
Every individual and family should have a plan should disaster strike. This plan should include a place to go if you have to evacuate or if you cannot get back to your home. You should also have a plan for how you would shelter-in-place in your home. Your plan should also detail how you will communicate with other family members so that you know where they are and whether they are safe. Remember: Disasters will not always happen when you are all at home. Your children could be at school, or you could be at work or running an errand. The Pennsylvania Emergency Preparedness Guide offers guidelines for preparing your family’s disaster plan.
Municipalities’ Roles in Emergency Management
Pennsylvania Title 35 requires each city, township and borough to have an emergency management program. These local emergency management programs are allow residents to interface with disaster response and recovery, report damages and get information about local clean-up and recovery efforts.
The local programs must include an emergency management coordinator, an emergency operations plan (EOP), an emergency operations center (EOC) and an emergency operations center staff. These local emergency management coordinators work for and report to their respective city, township or borough elected officials. Local municipalities may request assistance in coordinating resources from the county’s Emergency Management.
If you have disaster damage or need information about a disaster, contact your city, township or borough, and officials there can put you in contact with your local emergency management coordinator. Please do not contact county emergency management, as all damage reports must be made to the local municipality. For a list of local emergency management coordinators, please contact the Erie County Department of Public Safety.
County’s Role in Emergency Management
Like your borough, city or township, Erie County Emergency Management must also have an emergency management coordinator, an emergency operations plan, an emergency operations center and an emergency operations center staff. Please note that under Act 3 of 2008 (Pennsylvania Right to Know Law), some information regarding emergency management activities may be exempt.
Goals of Emergency Management
Emergency management officials work with other partners to identify possible disasters that could impact Erie County. Building codes, zoning and flood plain ordinances are some of the common methods to reduce our vulnerability to disaster.
Preparedness is the phase of emergency that deals with planning, organizing and equipping, training, exercising and evaluation. What emergency management and the community as a whole do in the months and years before a disaster have the greatest impact on determining our success or failure during a disaster.
Erie County Emergency Management is active in developing emergency plans for county government, schools, chemical facilities, special events and more. Emergency Management offers several courses on various aspects of disaster preparedness, response and recovery throughout the year. Erie County Emergency Management has a cache of equipment and supplies that stands ready for deployment in times of disaster.
When activated, Emergency Management responds to the county’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). In the EOC, Emergency Management staff coordinate information, equipment and supplies with various levels of government and other organizations. Much of the information is passed up to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA). Information such as damage reports help determine if the governor will ask for a Presidential Disaster Declaration.
Recovery is the process of getting the community back to normal after a disaster. There are two phases of recovery: short-term and long-term. Short-term recovery, for example, would include finding temporary housing for those displaced by a disaster temporary housing, while long-term recovery would be rebuilding or repairing homes with extensive damage.
Support Functions of Emergency Management
From a planning, coordination and training standpoint, Emergency Management deals with 15 emergency support functions:
- Public works
- Emergency management
- Mass care, emergency assistance, housing, human services
- Logistics and resource support
- Public health and medical
- Search and rescue
- Oil and hazardous materials responses
- Agriculture and natural resources
- Public safety and security
- Long-term community recovery
- External affairs (public information)
Emergency Management is not responsible for performing all these functions, but rather works to coordinate the efforts of the agencies/organizations that are responsible for these services.
Assistance After a Disaster
Assistance can come from different entities; including from local, county, state and federal governments and from nonprofit organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and local food pantries. Assistance is always need based. Disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is only available when the incident receives a Presidential Disaster Declaration. Some types of assistance that may be available include:
- Debris removal on private property. Property owners are responsible for the removal of disaster-related debris from their property. Renters should contact their landlords. Home owners should consult their homeowners’ insurance, as many policies may cover debris removal.
- Debris removal from public roads. Local municipalities are responsible for the removal of disaster-related debris from their roads. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is responsible for removal of debris from state roads.
- Shelters. Erie County Emergency Management has a Memorandum of Agreement with the American Red Cross to provide shelters. In larger disasters, the American Red Cross may open shelters, which are often located in schools, churches or other large public buildings. Shelters are opened based upon need. If you cannot safely live in your home you should contact your municipal emergency management coordinator.
- Food and water. Emergency food and water may be provided by many different organizations such as the Salvation Army or Red Cross. Lack of utilities (electric, water, gas) may impact a person’s ability to access safe food and water. Safe food and water will be provided at shelters and, depending upon the specific disaster and need, might be provided via mobile canteen feeding.
- Special needs: Some services are available for those members of our community who have special needs, such as unique medical needs or cognitive abilities. When open, Red Cross shelters can assist you in accessing special medical needs.
- Emotional Support. The Disaster Crisis Outreach Referral Team, or DCORT, is a collaborative effort that includes the Erie County Department of Human Services, Safe Harbor Behavioral Health and other social service providers. DCORT works to help the public cope with the emotional impact of events. Requests for DCORT services can be made 24/7 at 814-451-2322. DCORT activities include:
- Supportive listening – one-on-one support and crisis counseling with disaster victims.
- Education – helping victims learn ways to manage their reactions and find ways to take care of themselves.
- Action planning – helping disaster victims determine their priorities and develop a plan of action to reorganize their lives.
- Information and referral – provide information and referrals on disaster assistance and human service resources.
If you registered with FEMA, and you will receive a loan application from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Since all FEMA Individual Assistance aid is based on need, the first step is for FEMA to determine the financial need for assistance. This is done when you submit the completed SBA loan application.