HELPING PEOPLE ... HELP PEOPLE
The mission of the Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services Division of Emergency Management is to mitigate the potential effects of the various hazards and vulnerabilities that might impact the county, to implement measures which will preserve life and minimize damage, to respond effectively to the needs of the citizens and local jurisdictions during emergencies, and to provide a recovery system to return the county and its communities to a normal status as soon as possible from the effects of natural or man-made disasters, technological accidents, national security threats, and other disrupting incidents that may impact our area.
Our vision is for a less vulnerable and more resilient Allegheny County through a comprehensive emergency management program which is built through fostering relationships that will be mutually beneficial without infringing upon the autonomy of each entity. It is through these relationships that we will nurture an environment of trust, respect, cooperation, and coordination that will translate into success during all phases of emergency management.
About Emergency Management
Emergency Management is a comprehensive, integrated program of mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery, for emergencies/disasters of any kind. No public or private entity is immune to disasters and no single segment of society can meet the complex needs of a major emergency or disaster on its own. As stated so eloquently by John Donne, "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." When disaster strikes, the community is clearly divided into only two entities; those who need help and those who can provide help. In its simplest form, the bottom line of Emergency Management is helping peoplehelp people!
In every community there are various groups who perform vital emergency services dedicated to protecting health, safety and well being of the people. Police, firefighters, emergency medical and health personnel, public works, human/social service agencies and departments, all play a key role in response to emergencies/disasters. These are the first responders who, both paid and volunteer, put their own lives on the line to save others. Historically, however, none of these emergency service groups or individuals has the legal responsibility to organize all of the others in the community. No single group has the responsibility to work closely with all the other groups and individuals to develop, implement and test a comprehensive emergency operations plan. Also, no single group is responsible to see that during an emergency/disaster, the collective response of all emergency service departments and agencies will be effectively coordinated.
Emergency Management was created in 1978 as the lead agency or entity, to coordinate multi-organizational community planning, response and recovery. Through Emergency Management, effective partnerships are created and nurtured in advance of a disaster through the development of a proactive, comprehensive emergency operations plan. During a disaster, response and recovery efforts are coordinated from an Emergency Operations Center that is staffed by paid and volunteer personnel and representatives from all emergency service departments and agencies involved in operations.
In Pennsylvania, Emergency Management begins at the municipal level, as required by the PA Emergency Management Service Code. Every county, city, borough and township in the Commonwealth, ( a total of 2,638 municipalities), are required to have an emergency management coordinator who is selected by the elected officials of the jurisdiction. The Emergency Management Coordinator's role is to develop plans, conduct training and coordinate all available resources in the community. The ultimate responsibility for Emergency Management always rests with the chief elected officials and governing body.
When two or more municipalities are involved in a disaster, the county assumes overall emergency coordination. When two or more counties are involved in a disaster, the state assumes overall coordination. When two or more states are involved in a disaster, the federal government assumes overall coordination. Thus, the responsibility and authority for emergency management always lies with the lowest level of government affected, and a unified incident command system is implemented that is all inclusive, yet never usurps local authority.
Therefore, Emergency Management is the bridge designed and created to help peoplehelp people. A prime example of this innovative initiative which brings together diverse groups (public/private partnerships) to achieve consensus in emergency planning and problem solving, is the Allegheny County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). This 60 member dynamic planning group is broad-based and is representative of the community at large. The LEPC was established in 1987 in compliance with SARA Title III (Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986). Composed of business leaders, environmental groups, public safety, medical and health, human/social services agencies and departments, the LEPC's primary agenda is to develop plans and programs to mitigate the effects of hazardous material releases in the community. In addition to planning and providing support for the county's five (5) fully trained and equipped Hazardous Material Teams, the LEPC participates in the development of training programs, exercises and public awareness outreach. The LEPC meets on the third Wednesday of each month, at 10:00 am, at the Allegheny County Emergency Management Office, 400 North Lexington Street, in Pittsburgh's Point Breeze Area. The meetings are open to the public and all interested parties are encouraged to attend.
If the health, safety and well-being of the entire community is our number one priority and if a comprehensive emergency management program built on effective public/private partnerships can be directly attributable to saving lives, mitigating the effects of and recovering from a disaster, then it takes and entire community: those who can help, helping those who need help.
So as John Donne concludes, "I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
To become a part of your Emergency Management Team, to help peoplehelp people, contact your Municipal Emergency Management Coordinator.