Pennsylvania Emergency Management and Homeland Security Authorities Summarized.
CRS Report for Congress
Pennsylvania Emergency Management and
Homeland Security Statutory Authorities
March 23, 2004
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
L. Cheryl Runyon and Kae M. Warnock, Consultants
Government and Finance Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Pennsylvania Emergency Management and Homeland
Security Statutory Authorities Summarized
The Emergency Management Services Code (35 Pa. C.S.A. 7101 et seq.) for
Pennsylvania outlines emergency management roles and responsibilities for the
commonwealth and local governments. Provisions include the authority of the
governor to take emergency action, the mission of the Pennsylvania Emergency
Management Agency, and mandates to be taken to reduce the risk of future disasters.
The Emergency Interim Executive and Judicial Succession Act (71 P.S. 779.1 et seq.)
provides for the continuity of government operations. The Temporary War
Legislation (35 P.S. 2001 et seq.) authorizes civil defense actions to be taken by state
This report is one of a series that profiles emergency management and homeland
security statutory authorities of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico,
American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each profile identifies the
more significant elements of state statutes, generally as codified. Congressional
readers may wish to conduct further searches for related provisions using the Internet
link presented in the last section of this report. The National Conference of State
Legislatures provided primary research assistance in the development of these
profiles under contract to the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Summary
information on all of the profiles is presented in CRS Report RL32287. This report
will be updated as developments warrant.
Entities with Key Responsibilities.................................1
Types of Assistance............................................3
Continuity of Government Operations..............................5
For Further Research...........................................7
List of Tables
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Terms Defined in Pennsylvania Statutes, with Citations................6
Pennsylvania Emergency Management and
Homeland Security Statutory Authorities
Entities with Key Responsibilities
Governor: The governor is authorized to issue, amend, and rescind executive
orders, proclamations and regulations; activate emergency response programs and
deploy forces; use and distribute stockpiled supplies, equipment, materials and
facilities; serve as commander in chief of the commonwealth military forces; suspend
statutory provisions that would prevent, hinder, or delay action to cope with an
emergency; use all resources of the commonwealth and its political subdivisions to
cope with an emergency; transfer personnel or functions of agencies to aide
emergency services; commandeer and use any private, public or quasi-public
property, with compensation; direct the evacuation of the population from stricken
or threatened areas; prescribe routes, destinations and transportation modes for
evacuation; control ingress or egress to a disaster area; and suspend or limit the sale
of alcohol, firearms, explosives, and combustibles during an emergency (35 Pa.
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, (PEMA): The agency is required
to prepare and maintain the state emergency management plan; assist state and local
governments with the design of emergency management plans and training programs;
coordinate commonwealth, federal and local emergency management activities and
plans; identify areas most vulnerable to disasters and recommending zoning, building
and land-use controls to eliminate or reduce the impact of disasters; erect temporary
works to protect against or mitigate damage from floods or other disasters; and
provide notice on disasters and information and instructions to the public. The
agency must report annually to the General Assembly on commonwealth
preparedness, recommend legislation to the governor, and undertake other activities
as specified (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7311, 7313, 7314). In addition, the agency must submit
an annual report on local emergency planning committee activities to the general
assembly (35 Pa. C.S.A. §6022.212).
State Director (PEMA): The director is appointed by the governor, has fiscal,
planning, administrative, operational, and other duties, and is charged with
coordinating the commonwealth and local disaster response efforts (35 Pa. C. S. A.
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Council: The council, consisting of the
governor, other state officials, legislative leaders, representatives from the business,
labor, and public-at-large sectors, and local officials in non-voting positions, has
primary responsibility for establishing the policy and direction of the civil defense
and disaster program for the commonwealth (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7312 (a)).
Local coordinator of emergency management: Each local coordinator is
responsible for the planning, administration, and operations of local emergency
management. The statute lists qualifications and in-service training requirements for
coordinators (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7502).
Local governments: After the governor issues a disaster emergency
proclamation each unit of government is authorized to clean roadways and lease or
hire personnel and equipment to restore water systems, if necessary (35 Pa. C.S.A.
§7705). Each unit of government must establish a local emergency management
organization and is responsible for: emergency management, response, and recovery
within its territory (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7501 (a)); preparation and maintenance of a
disaster emergency management plan; establishment of an emergency operations
center; and other actions as specified (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7503). The statute authorizes
units of government to: enter into contracts and incur obligations for emergency
management, response and recovery (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7501 (c)); rent equipment and
buy supplies and materials during an emergency without meeting customary
contracting requirements; levy taxes; and appropriate and spend public funds (35 Pa.
Emergency Management Council: The council serves as an emergency response
commission pursuant to the federal Community Right-to-Know Act (42 U.S.C.
11001), prescribes duties for local emergency planning committees and
commonwealth agencies under the federal statute, and establishes requirements for
training, equipment, public education (35 Pa. C.S.A. § 6022.201).
Local emergency planning committee: Each county must establish a committee
that is supervised by the emergency management council and works with the county
emergency management agency to prepare emergency response plans (35 Pa. C.S.A.
See “Entities with Key Responsibilities,” PEMA.
PEMA must maintain integrated communications systems to provide weather
advisories, river forecasts, warnings, and direction and control of all emergency
preparedness functions within the commonwealth (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7312 (h)).
PEMA has jurisdiction over the 911 telephone program (71 P.S. §1709.303).
Universities, colleges, elementary and secondary schools must be used for
planning and exercises and as mass care facilities during the evacuation of a stricken
or threatened area (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7701 (d)). School buses and transportation
vehicles from schools and universities are to be available for planning and exercises
and evacuations (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7701 (e)).
All schools must conduct one tornado or other natural disaster drill per year and
must have prepared disaster response plans (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7701 (f), (g)).
The state Hazardous Materials Emergency Planning and Response Act is
codified (35 P.S. §6022.101 et seq.).
State Council of Civil Defense: The council must, during a war between the
United States and any foreign country, protect the civilian population and property
during air raids. The mandate for the council includes formulating and executing
plans, making personnel and equipment available, and organizing volunteers, among
other directives (35 P. S. §2002 - §2011).
The governor, by executive order or proclamation, is authorized to declare that
a state of disaster emergency exists, which continues until the governor finds that the
threat or danger has passed. Such a declaration may be terminated by executive order
or proclamation, or by the general assembly through a concurrent resolution (which
must be followed by a gubernatorial order terminating the disaster emergency). A
state of emergency cannot extend beyond 90 days, except if renewed by the governor.
Declarations must indicate the nature of the emergency, the affected geographic area,
and conditions for declaring or discontinuing the emergency (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7301).
The governing body of a unit of local government may declare a local disaster
emergency, or may authorize the mayor or chief executive officer to issue the
declaration, subject to ratification by the governing body. The disaster emergency
cannot exceed a seven day period unless continued or renewed by the governing
body. Such a declaration and associated continuations or termination orders must be
given general publicity. The issuance of such a declaration activates response and
recovery efforts and local plans (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7501 (b)).
Types of Assistance
The governor is authorized to: purchase or lease temporary housing units for
disaster victims; assist political subdivisions to acquire sites for temporary housing;
advance or lend funds from any appropriation or pass-through funds or cooperate
with political subdivisions to acquire temporary housing; use commonwealth credit
to pay for temporary housing; and suspend or modify for a maximum period of 60
days public health, safety, zoning and transportation statutes/regulations to provide
temporary housing (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7302).
The statute authorizes the use of public agencies to remove debris and wreckage
from public and private land or water as well as staff entry to private land or waters
to perform necessary tasks. Responding staff are not liable for death or injury to
persons or property damage while performing tasks (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7303).
The governor is authorized to apply to the federal government on behalf of
political subdivisions for community disaster loans. The governor is to decide on the
amount needed to restore or resume governmental functions and certify the amount
to the federal government, to a maximum of 25% of the annual operating budget per
fiscal year for each applicant. The governor is authorized to recommend cancellation
of repayment if, within the first three fiscal years, revenues are not sufficient for
repayment to the federal government (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7304).
The governor is authorized to make grants to meet disaster-related expenses and
serious needs of individuals and families affected by a major disaster that is the
subject of a presidential declaration (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7305).
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact is codified (35 Pa. C.S.A.
The Interstate Civil Defense and Disaster Compact is codified (35 Pa. C.S.A.
County and local emergency management coordinators are authorized to
develop mutual aid agreements for reciprocal emergency assistance (35 Pa. C.S.A.
Local governments are authorized to enter into mutual aid agreements with
similar agencies in other states (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7504 (d)).
The governor is authorized to negotiate interstate agreements that are subject to
legislative approval (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7703).
Units of local government may appropriate funds to pay expenses needed for
emergency management activities (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7511) and to use gifts or grants
deposited in the state treasury and appropriated for emergency management (35 Pa.
C.S.A. §§7514 (h), 7515 (d)).
All federal funds for disaster assistance or relief (temporary housing, debris and
wreckage removal, community disaster loans) are to be paid into the general fund (35
Pa. C.S.A. §7306). The governor is authorized to transfer unused funds from state
appropriations to clear roadways and restore water systems, to a maximum of $2
million per year. Such transfers cannot occur if state or local entities are eligible for
federal assistance (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7705 (c), (d)). The governor also may transfer
unused funds for disaster relief, generally no more than$10 million in any year unless
the General Assembly acts (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7307).
See “Entities with Key Responsibilities”—PEMA.
The governor is authorized to agree to commonwealth participation in funding
mitigation projects if the federal government provides 75% of the cost of hazard
mitigation projects designed to reduce future damages (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7305.1).
The governor is authorized to take steps to prevent or reduce the consequences
of a disaster by making recommendations on mitigation (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7701 (a)).
The Department of Environmental Resources is to continuously study and
review land use patterns and construction, and identify areas susceptible to flooding,
subsidence, or similar threats (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7701 (b)). In addition, other agencies
especially those responsible for missions such as economic recovery, floodplain
management, stream encroachment, fire prevention, and public utilities, should
conduct mitigation studies (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7701 (c)).
Continuity of Government Operations
Emergency seats of local government may be established at any place in or out
of territorial limits on the call of the presiding officer and two members of the
governing body. Officials may establish alternate sites by ordinance or resolution (71
P.S. §777.1 et. seq.).
The governor is authorized to move the state capital from Harrisburg to a
temporary location (71 P.S. §778.1.).
The Emergency Interim Executive and Judicial Succession Act provides for
successors to the governor to be named if the lieutenant governor and president pro
tempore of the Senate are not available. State officers are to designate by title their
successors and the order of succession. Local governing bodies are to enact
resolutions for successors to local offices. The governor is authorized to fill Supreme
Court vacancies, and the chief justice is to fill other vacancies with special
emergency judges. The tenure of interim successors may be terminated by the
legislature through concurrent resolution. Interim successors may be removed by a
designated authority with our without cause (71 P.S. §779.1 et seq).
The statute establishes immunity from civil liability for emergency management
employees and for persons owning or controlling real estate used for emergency
services (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7704).
A state court may order a person convicted of a bomb threat to reimburse state,
county, or municipal corporations for the emergency response costs incurred in
protecting life and property from the threat (18 Pa. C.S.A. §2715 (c)).
If an emergency is declared, agencies are not required to follow state law related
to various responsibilities, including contracts, incurring obligations, temporary
workers, equipment rental and purchase of supplies, or materials (35 Pa. C.S.A.
Volunteers are entitled to compensation for accidental injury if injuries are
sustained during tests, drills, exercises or actual operations approved by PEMA. The
statute establishes ceilings for specific expenses (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7706).
Political subdivisions may lose federal funds for the remainder of a fiscal year
if officials are convicted of violating plans and programs (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7707 (b)).
The Pennsylvania Volunteer Loan Assistance Program is implemented by the
state fire commissioner and PEMA to make loans to volunteer fire companies,
ambulance services, hazardous materials units and rescue squads to establish or
modernize facilities and to purchase equipment (35 Pa. C.S.A. §7317, 71 P.S. §751-
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Terms Defined in Pennsylvania Statutes, with Citations
Attack35 P.S. §2002, 71 P. S. §779.3
Disaster35 Pa. C.S.A. §7102
Disaster emergency35 Pa. C.S.A. §7102
Drill35 P.S. §2002
During attack or drill35 P.S. §2002
Emergency interim successor71 P. S. §779.3
Emergency management35 Pa. C.S.A. §7102, 35 P.S. §6022.103
Emergency management agency4 Pa. C. S. A. §111.1 et seq.
Emergency services35 Pa. C.S.A. §7102
Local emergency35 Pa. C.S.A. §7102
Local emergency planning35 Pa. C.S.A. §6022.103
Local organization35 Pa. C.S.A. §7102
Man-made disaster35 Pa. C.S.A. §7102
Municipal agencies35 P.S. §2002
Natural disaster35 Pa. C.S.A. §7102
Resources shortage35 Pa. C.S.A. §7102
State council of civil defense35 P.S. §2002
Terroristic threats18 Pa. C.S.A.§2706 (a)
Unavailable71 P. S. §779.3
Volunteer agencies35 P.S. §2002
War caused disaster35 Pa. C.S.A. §7102
For Further Research
To a limited extent, the citations noted above and other elements of the state
code for Pennsylvania may be searched at the following website:
[http://members.aol.com/StatutesPA/Index.html]. Pennsylvania, however, maintains
both statutes (cited as P.S.) and consolidated statutes (Pa. C.S.A). Background on
the differences between these two methods of citation may be found at the website
given above, but the text of many of the Pennsylvania statutes will only be found in