A handful of mayors from Carbon County listened and learned about a group that could help them better prepare their municipalities.
During the Carbon County Citizen Corps Council meeting Tuesday evening, Mayors Paul McArdle of Summit Hill and Michael Sofranko of Jim Thorpe, learned about the importance of making sure elected officials and their staff on the municipal level are educated and prepared for emergency situations.
Nesquehoning Mayor Tony Walck, who also serves as the president of the Citizen Corps Council, welcomed his counterparts to the group's regular meeting. He then turned over the floor to Mark Nalesnik, Carbon County Emergency Management Agency coordinator, to explain what Citizen Corps is all about.
Nalesnik explained that the Citizen Corps was formed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, under the direction of President George W. Bush, in January of 2002. The reason for the creation was largely due to the terrorist attacks on America on Sept. 11.
The goal of Citizens Corps Councils are to help capture the spirit of service that emerged in communities following the attacks. It also aims to coordinate volunteer efforts through education and training and make communities safer, stronger and better prepared for emergency situations that may arise.
Nalesnik pointed out that victims and bystanders of emergencies will most likely be the first person to a scene because only 1 percent of the U.S. population is trained as a first reponder, so they should know what should be done.
To help with this, there are other groups, such as the Community Emergency Response Team and the County Animal Response Team, that Citizen Corps oversees. These volunteer groups must take courses to learn proper handling of emergency situations and what they can do to help their communities.
In Carbon, over 500 residents are currently CERT members.
Citizen Corps Councils, as well as CERT and CART teams are always looking to educate residents so they can better help themselves and others during emergencies, like recently, when Superstorm Sandy caused damage and power outages to the county.
In addition, Nalesnik spoke about Chapter 75 of Pa. Title 35, which deals with municipality responsibility for emergency situations.
In Carbon County, Nalesnik is the county EMA coordinator, but each municipality is also responsible for appointing a trained coordinator to oversee emergency situations on the municipal level.
He said that in addition to appointing a coordinator, municipalities must develop an Emergency Operations plan; establish and equip an Emergency Operations Center; provide incident reporting to the county so it can be passed on to the state and federal bureaus; and adopt and implement precautionary measures to mitigate disasters.
Nalesnik stressed the importance of having a municipal emergency management coordinator because it is crucial in times of disaster to report all damages so that counties and states can make a determination if they will declare a disaster declaration.
Following the presentation, Sofranko reported on Jim Thorpe's recent action to create a position for a municipal emergency management coordinator in the borough. He explained that they will be going through the hiring process shortly and hope to have a coordinator in place by March.
In a related matter, Tom Newman, Carbon County emergency management planner/trainer, announced that the next CERT training classes will be held April 8, 15, and 22, 2013, from 6:30-9:30 p.m., at the Carbon County EMA building in Nesquehoning. Attendance is required for all three days to obtain certification.
For more information or to sign up for the class, call the EMA at (570) 325-3097.