Pennsylvania Hosts National Mass Care Exercise to Bolster Emergency Preparedness

Mass careCredit: Commonwealth Media Services

SHIPPENSBURG, PA — On Tuesday, Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Director Randy Padfield joined representatives from a broad coalition of state agencies, local governments, private sector entities, federal partners, and fifteen other states at Shippensburg University for the 2024 Keystone 6 National Mass Care Exercise. This four-day training, which began Monday, tests procedures for mass care and emergency response in the event of a presidentially declared disaster. The exercise covers critical issues such as mass feeding, sheltering, disability accessibility, reunification, and care for pets and service animals.

Throughout the exercise, the Shapiro Administration collaborates with hundreds of partners, including volunteer organizations and governmental agencies, to demonstrate the ongoing efforts to ensure safety and preparedness across Pennsylvania.

“When emergencies happen, it requires quick coordination and action from people at all levels of government and across the private sector,” said Secretary Arkoosh. “I’m grateful for these experienced and compassionate professionals who work together throughout the year, so we are ready at a moment’s notice to help those who just experienced one of their worst days. Preparedness trainings and partnerships at all levels of community including public-private partnerships are vital to ensuring that we can promptly and efficiently serve those impacted by disasters.”

The hypothetical scenario for this year’s exercise is a prolonged natural gas outage during the winter. DHS is leading the coordination effort for a full-scale shelter and overseeing the activation and assessment of the DHS Mass Care Task Forces.

“PEMA is supporting this national exercise to test and strengthen the Commonwealth’s capabilities to shelter and care for people who may be displaced from their homes during a disaster or emergency,” said Director Padfield. “The capabilities exercised this week are critical to supporting people’s basic needs during a disaster regardless of the cause, and will help deepen the partnerships crucial to successfully implementing our plans.”

READ:  USDA Invests $66 Million to Combat Wildfire Risk and Improve Forest Health

Individuals served by DHS and its partners often face greater impacts during disasters due to health-related needs, economic strain, and other compounded challenges such as environmental injustices, lack of safe housing, and insufficient access to food or healthcare. The 2024 Keystone 6 National Mass Care Exercise provides a unique opportunity for leaders to better understand the complex issues that arise when offering mass care and emergency assistance after disasters. It also allows them to meet and speak with the volunteers and professionals dedicated to serving Commonwealth residents during their most vulnerable times.

This exercise is organized in collaboration with Cumberland County Emergency Management, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, and the Pennsylvania regions of the American Red Cross. Participants include federal partners, multiple Commonwealth agencies, and counterparts from across the nation, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Washington, D.C. Additional attendees include the Salvation Army, Feeding America, Pennsylvania Centers for Independent Living, and members of PEMA’s Business Emergency Operations Center.

The comprehensive nature of this exercise reflects the importance of readiness and cooperation at all levels. By simulating real-world scenarios and testing response strategies, Pennsylvania and its partners aim to ensure they are well-prepared to handle emergencies and provide effective support to those in need.

For the latest news on everything happening in Chester County and the surrounding area, be sure to follow MyChesCo on Google News and Microsoft Start.