Every municipality in the Commonwealth – nearly 2,600 in total – is required to appoint an emergency management co-ordinator.
This position is to lead disaster preparedness efforts for the municipality and also act as a leader in times of crisis.
But new guidelines from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency set the training bar so high that county officials are concerned about the ability to keep those roles filled.
And that could have an impact on the emergency response on the ground.
Director of Public Safety Ken McCorrison took the issue to the Council of Governments on Wednesday.
Documentation for the required certification shows a list of 12 classes plus internal services, proof of a 30-minute public speaking commitment, publication of an article, and awards received in the field, among other qualifications .
In addition to those qualifications, McCorrison said 75 hours of continuing education is required.
This is a level of training on par with what county public safety personnel expect.
But many of these emergency coordinator positions are volunteer in nature and “everyone has struggled to find local funding” emergency management coordinators, McCorrison said.
He said that the importance of the position is linked to “local knowledge about local resources”.
The idea behind EMC is to be able to “simplify life” for an incident commander, he explained. A recent example was the acid spill on Route 62 through North Warren when the incident commander needed dirt to soak up the chemicals.
McCorrison doesn’t think he can find a person in every municipality to handle this new burden, which county officials have pushed back to no avail.
“I think the COG is the perfect vessel to look at doing some sort of regionalization (or) consolidation,” he said. “We can’t put 26 people through this. I think we need to find four or five dedicated people and have them cover a group of municipalities.
He said it was the only way to meet the new guidelines “reasonably.”
“It’s crazy,” Clarendon Borough chairman Paul Pascuzzi said, asking how long local authorities had to put something in place.
“Actually, a year” said McCorrison.
“Now we have to find out what is the next step, what is the proposal”, Pascuzzi said, “and how are we going to do that?”
He proposed that the issue become a COG agenda item.
“That is exactly what these intergovernmental organizations should be doing,” COG consultant Alan Kugler said. “That’s exactly why we wanted to formalize the COG.”
He suggested that this is a backdoor attempt by the state to force regionalization and a failure of the General Assembly not to tackle the problem, leaving the agency to deal with it. set the rules.