What is Emergency Management?


Emergency Management is a system that mitigates, prepares for, responds to and recovers from disasters.  This “system” is a community wide partnership that involves city, township, borough, county, state and federal governments; authorities; businesses and industries in the community, non-profit community organizations; faith-based organizations; schools; and the private individual.

Emergency Management starts with YOU!


Every individual and family should have a plan should disaster strike.  This plan should include a place to go if you have to evacuate or if you cannot get back to your home.  A plan on how you would Shelter-in-Place in your home.  Your plan should also detail how you will communicate with other family members so that you know that they are safe and where they are at.  Remember disaster will not always happen when you are all at home.  Your children could be at school, you could be at work, or running an errand.  Click here to see information on individual and family disaster preparedness.


The Disaster Response Triangle



The very first tier of emergency management starts with you and your family.  When a disaster strikes you must act to protect yourself and your family.  When the disaster is outside of scope of what you or your family can handle, local government responds.  When municipal governments need help they contact and coordinate with the county.  When the county needs assistance, they first go to their regional partners and then to the state.  If the disaster is of a magnitude that state resources are not enough the Governor can request that the President declare a disaster.  Very few disasters reach this magnitude.  

City, Township and Borough Emergency Management

Pennsylvania Title 35 requires each city, township and borough to have an emergency management program.  These local emergency management programs are where residents interface with the disaster response and recovery; by reporting damages, getting information about local clean-up and recovery efforts, etc..   The local programs must include an emergency management coordinator, an emergency operations plan (EOP), an emergency operations center (EOC) and an emergency operations center staff.  These local programs are responsible for the mitigation, preparedness, planning, training, response and recovery within their jurisdictions.  These local emergency management coordinators work for and report to their respective city, township or borough elected officials.  When a disaster overwhelms a local municipality they may request assistance from the County Emergency Management.  This does not mean that the county emergency management takes control over the disaster but simply means that the county will help coordinate resources.  The county emergency management staff works with the emergency management staffs of the municipalities. 


If you have disaster damage or need information pertaining to a disaster, contact your city/township/borough and they can put you in contact with your local emergency management coordinator.  Please do not contact county emergency management as all damage reports must be made to the local municipality.  For a list of Local Emergency Management Coordinators please contact the Department of Public Safety.

County Emergency Management Operations


Like your borough, City or township, Erie County Emergency Management must also have an emergency management coordinator, an emergency operations plan, an emergency operations center and an emergency operations center staff.  Click here to see the county emergency operations “basic” plan.  Please note that under Act 3 of 2008 (Pa Right to Know Law) some information regarding emergency management activities may be exempt.




What is “mitigation”?


Emergency management officials work with others to identify possible disasters that could impact Erie County.  Building codes, zoning and flood plain ordinances are some of the common methods to reduce our vulnerability to disaster. 

What is “Preparedness”?


Preparedness is the phase of emergency that deals with planning, organizing and equipping, training, exercising and evaluation.  What emergency management and the community as a whole do in the months and years before a disaster have the greatest impact on determining our success or failure during a disaster. 


 Preparedness Cycle



Erie County Emergency management is active in developing emergency plans for county government, dams, schools, chemical facilities, special events, and others.  Emergency Management offers several courses on various aspects of disaster preparedness, response and recovery throughout the year.  Erie County Emergency Management has a cache of equipment and supplies (See Equipment and Supplies Cache) that stands ready for deployment in times of disaster.

What is “Response”?


Emergency management is not “in charge” of the disaster response.  When we are activated we respond to the County Emergency Operations Center (EOC).  In the EOC we coordinate with the various levels of government, non-profit organizations, etc. to coordinate information, equipment and supplies to City, township and borough governments.  Much of the information we collect we pass up to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA).  Information such as damage reports help determine if the Governor will ask for a Presidential Disaster Declaration.

If the disaster only impacts one municipality, we can integrate our staff into the emergency operations of the affected township, borough or city, to improve coordination and deliver of service.  Representative of Erie County Emergency Management also respond to calls with the Erie County Hazardous Materials Response Team to assist with Coordination and logistics.

Over the years our society has placed a lot of emphasis on being able to get things and to do things quickly.  For example we have instant lottery, fast food and instant pudding but many facets of disaster response and recovery are not instant or fast.  In many cases responders must travel from outside the area to help; the community’s infrastructure, such as phone, power, internet, etc., may be damaged adding to the complexities of the response and recovery.  All residents of Erie County have a the responsibility per the National Response Frame work to be self-sufficient.


What is “Recovery”? 


Recovery is the process of getting the community back to normal after a disaster.  There is two phases of recovery, short-term and long-term.  Short-term recovery would be finding those displaced by a disaster temporary housing while long-term recovery would be having homes with extensive damage re-built or repaired.

What functions does emergency management cover? 


From a planning, coordination and training standpoint, emergency management deals with 15 emergency support functions (ESFs).  These are:

 Transportation    Communications  
Care, Emergency Assistance, Housing, Human Services
and Resource Support
Health & Medical
& Rescue
& Hazardous Materials Responses
and Natural Resources
Safety & Security
Term Community Recovery
Affairs (Public Information)


Emergency management is not responsible for doing all these functions but rather is responsible for coordinating the efforts of the agencies/organizations that are responsible for these services.

If you need assistance:


Each City, Borough, and Township in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is required by law to have an emergency management program.  If you need to report damage or require disaster recovery assistance it must be reported/requested via your municipality (township/borough/city). 

What type of assistance is there?


Assistance can come from different entities; including from local, county, state and federal governments, non-profit organizations such as the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, local food pantries.  Assistance is always need based.  FEMA disaster assistance is only available when the incident receives a Presidential Disaster Declaration.  Some types of assistance that may be available include:

Debris Removal on Private Property:   Property owners are responsible for the removal of disaster related debris from their property.  Renters should contact their landlords.  Home owners should consult their homeowners’ insurance as many policies may cover debris removal.
Debris Removal from Public Roads: Local municipalities are responsible for the removal of disaster related debris from their roads.  PennDot is responsible for removal of debris from state roads.
Shelters: Erie County Emergency management has a Memorandum of Agreement with the American Red Cross to provide shelters.  We would like to thank the Red Cross for this valuable service in times of need. In larger disaster the American Red Cross may open shelters.  These shelters are normally in Schools, churches or other large public use buildings. Shelters are opened based upon need. If you cannot safely live in your home you should contact your municipal emergency management coordinator.

Food and Water: Emergency Food & Water may be provided by many different organizations such as the Salvation Army or Red Cross. 

Lack of utilities (electric, water, gas) may impact a person’s ability to access
safe food and water.  Safe food &
water will be provided at shelters and depending upon the specific disaster and
need via mobile canteen feeding.
Special Needs: We have a unique community and with that sometimes comes unique needs based upon a person’s medical and cognitive abilities. 
Those with special medical/cognitive needs should consider registering with Safetown.  When open, Red Cross shelters can assist
you in accessing special medical needs.   

Emotional Support:


DCORT is a collaborative effort among the Erie County Department of Human Services, Safe Harbor Behavioral Health, and other social service providers.

Erie County has a Disaster Crisis Outreach Referral Team (DCORT) that assist the public coping with the emotional impact of the events and also helps them meet their basic needs by providing referrals and information. DCORT activities include:

Supportive Listening – one-on-one support and crisis counseling with disaster victims.

Education – help victims to learn ways to manage their reactions and find ways to take care of themselves and recover from the disaster.


Action Planning – help disaster victims to determine their priorities and develop a plan of action to reorganize their lives.

Information & Referral – provide information and referrals on disaster assistance and human service resources.


Requests for any of these services can be made 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week by calling the Erie County CISM Team at (814) 451-2322.





Who is “In-charge” of the disaster response?

When there is a disaster many levels of government and many organizations may be involved with the response.  No one person or organization is “in-charge” of the disaster.  Disaster response is community response with many “cogs”.  For example, if needed, county emergency management will coordinate the opening of shelters with the American Red Cross or the delivery of food with the Salvation Army, however county emergency management is not in-charge of the Red Cross or Salvation Army. 

Why did I get a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan Application?:

If you were directed to register with FEMA and you did you will receive a loan application from the Small Business Administration (SBA).  Since all FEMA Individual Assistance aid is based on need, the first step is for FEMA to determine the financial need for assistance.  This is done when you submit the completed SBA loan application.
















Erie County Courthouse - 140 West Sixth Street, Erie, PA 16501 - (814) 451-6000 - TDD Phone: (814) 451-6237 - Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 4:30pm
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