NEW CASTLE —
Lawrence County also belongs to the Region 13 Task Force, a 13-county emergency response group. Melcer sits on its executive board of directors and is chairman of a regional network committee for sharing resources.
The task force formed in 1998, initially in response to terrorism preparedness. But in recent years its readiness has expanded to include any type of widespread incident, natural or manmade, “because it’s going to be the same people responding to a bomb or a flood or a building collapse,” Melcer said.
The counties share training, equipment and manpower in preparation for widespread incidents.
The task force is funded by money from the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security, Melcer said, adding, “that money has seen big drops.”
According to Melcer, a big part of planned spending is having elected officials who understand emergency preparedness.
“A lot of smaller municipalities don’t understand what is involved until it happens to them.”
John Krueger, emergency management coordinator for Shenango Township, with the police and fire chiefs and supervisors, has organized an emergency management committee of about 20 volunteer residents and business owners who help in planning and acquiring resources in the event of a disaster.
The committee functions as a township emergency operations center and staffs a call center while Krueger and emergency responders are out in the field.
“In a major incident, if we need to deploy an operations center at the township building, we’d use those residents because it is their community,” he said.
In monthly training sessions, “We decide as a whole what we do and where can we get funding and services,” Krueger said.
He pointed out that each municipality is responsible for its own emergency plan. Krueger is working on updating Shenango’s, and it includes verbal or written contracts with local businesses and excavators, some of which donate services.
An example is township resident Richie Nesbit, who owns a portable toilet service and has a contract with the township.
“He doesn’t charge us,” Krueger said. “He does it for the community.”