A handful of elected officials from various municipalities in Carbon County recently took part in the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency's Annual Elected Official seminar.
The event, held at the Carbon County EMA building in Nesquehoning on Monday, taught new and seasoned officials what each municipality needs to do to be in compliance with PEMA regulations; as well as how to be prepared in case a disaster strikes.
Anthony Camillocci, eastern area director for PEMA, welcomed the officials to the meeting.
He explained that emergency management is crucial because it not only prepares each municipality for a crisis that they hope will never happen, but allows them to train individuals and work with other municipalities and the county to ensure residents are kept safe.
Camillocci used the example of the flood of 2011 to show how disasters can happen at any time and without warning so preparation is key to save lives and move forward after an emergency.
He also commended Mark Nalesnik, Carbon County EMA coordinator; and Megan Fredericks, administrative assistant at the EMA, for their dedication to the county through their completion of certifications through PEMA.
He urged officials to ask local emergency coordinators to update emergency operations and hazard mitigation plans regularly, as required by PEMA.
Camillocci then turned the program over to Nalesnik, who outlined Title 35; as well as other aspects of emergency management on the municipal levels.
He explained that each municipality and county is required by law to have emergency operations plans in place and continually updated to be eligible for state and federal assistance if a disaster strikes.
Nalesnik also stressed the importance of documenting emergencies through photos and forms and sending them to the county, who forwards them to PEMA.
In addition to documentation and planning, Nalesnik highlighted Chapter 75 of Title 35 of the Emergency Management Services Code.
Chapter 75 deals with local organizations and explains that "each political subdivision is responsible to provide for the health and welfare of citizens through the establishment of an emergency management agency." They must also "appoint a trained and competent EMA coordinator; develop and emergency operations plan; establish and equip an emergency operations center; provide incident reporting to the next higher level of government; and adopt and implement precautionary measures to mitigate disasters."
Nalesnik stressed that this is the most important part of Title 35 for local officials because it shows what each municipality must do in order to be in compliance with PEMA.
Nalesnik added that several of the 23 municipalities in Carbon County have not fulfilled all of these requirements, such as appointing a local emergency coordinator and updating their emergency operations plan.
He noted that if a municipality has chosen a person to act as the local emergency coordinator, they must notify the county EMA and file an application. That application will be sent to the state, who will decide whether or not to appoint the person to the position.
Nalesnik said that if any municipality needs help to complete any of these requirements, they can contact the Carbon County EMA at (570) 325-3097, and a representative would be more than happy to walk them through the process.
"Please get your plans updated," he said, as he ended the class.
In other business, prior to the meeting, Carbon County Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard updated officials about the countywide narrowband project.
He said that four municipalities have not yet sent in their memorandum of understanding agreements; so no radios have been ordered yet and cannot be until all agreements are received.
"They say strength comes in numbers and this was a remarkable grant that we received," Gerhard said. "It just proves that when a county comes together and work together, we can accomplish great things."
Carbon County received a $907,000 state grant earlier this year to complete the narrowband project and update all emergency radios and pagers to be narrowband frequence compatible.