The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency now has a new base of operations to prepare for and respond to any type of disaster in the state's 20 eastern counties.
Gov. Tom Corbett on Thursday cut the ribbon to open the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency's new eastern area office in the sprawling complex of the Hamburg Center on Old Route 22 in Windsor Township.
"The staff in PEMA's eastern area office has been incredibly busy in responding to Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Sandy," Corbett said. "They are a vital link between county government and the state in emergency response and recovery in Pennsylvania."
Corbett was joined at the ribbon cutting by Glenn Cannon, PEMA's director, Department of General Services Secretary Sheri Phillips, Pa. Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks Co., and Pa. Rep. Mark Gillen, R-Berks Co.
The eastern area office is located in the same complex as the old office, which was situated below ground. The new, $1.8 million facility offers some advantages.
"It allows us to bring in equipment that we weren't bringing in before, store it here, and then that equipment can go out to the emergency scene I think faster from this location," said Corbett.
"We'll have a lot of the new technology that we need to really react," said Schwank. "This is a good thing for us. It's a good thing for the commonwealth, as well."
The staff includes experts who can deal with an assortment of disasters ranging from hazardous material incidents to terrorism.
"We're a very small agency, but we make a big impact if we do our job correctly," said Cannon.
PEMA area offices work as the field extension of PEMA, coordinating with state agencies, county and municipal government, volunteers and the private sector to assist in the prevention of, preparedness for, response to and recovery from all types of disasters, officials said.
During times of manmade or natural disasters, the eastern area office provides on-site assistance to emergency management coordinators and elected officials in 20 eastern Pennsylvania counties: Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Columbia, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Philadelphia, Pike, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming.
"It's where we have the entire state linked together for emergency management information sharing," said Cannon.
PEMA's central office, located in Harrisburg, has jurisdiction over 23 counties; the western office in Indiana, Pa. serves 24 counties.