PEMA director, Scranton mayor discuss emergency declarations

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — PEMA Director Randy Padfield was in Scranton Thursday and discussed how flexible disaster emergency declarations allow emergency officials to meet the needs of communities before, during and after an emergency. 

“Many people are looking at this issue through the lens of the COVID-19 response,” PEMA Director Randy Padfield said. “But the COVID-19 pandemic was the first disaster declaration in the state’s history ever issued in response to a pandemic. Drastically changing a process that has worked well for all other disasters that we’ve experienced in the past is extremely short sighted and equates to a knee-jerk reaction that will only serve to adversely impact the state’s ability to respond in a timely and efficient manner to address the needs of those impacted by all future disasters.”

He was joined Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti.

“We have to be agile and quick in disasters, whether pertaining to public health, weather, cybercrime, or any other threat,” Mayor Cognetti said. “To take away the ability for a governor to be an executive and act as such could have real, even tragic, consequences.”

According to a release from the governor’s press office, Pennsylvania governors have issued more than 60 emergency declarations in the commonwealth since 1996. Declarations were declared due to a variety of events including, transportation infrastructure emergencies, catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Padfield warned of prematurely ending the disaster declaration.

“This could impact future federal funding for any ongoing response or recovery operations, which can total in the millions of dollars, and the state would ultimately bear those costs. This also comes at a time when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is urging states to take a more active role in leading disaster response and recovery operations as their ability to continue to provide resources outside of financial support is limited due to the ever increasing scale and magnitude of disasters facing the nation,” the release stated.

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