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Allentown council introduces ordinance to establish OEM

Main Street, in Allentown. 5/15 - jw

By Andrew Martins
Staff Writer

ALLENTOWN – The Borough Council has introduced an ordinance that, if adopted, will create the Allentown Office of Emergency Management, the position of emergency management coordinator and the Emergency Management Advisory Council.

Borough Attorney Gregory Cannon said the ordinance is required to meet state and local guidelines.

“There is a lot of intersecting regulation at the state level that our municipal code is not in compliance with,” Cannon said during a recent council meeting. “Although proper procedures were in place, codification-wise, we did not have anything in the borough code.”

At present, there is an empty space in the Allentown municipal code book that is reserved for the Office of Emergency Management (OEM). The office would handle preparations for and responses to natural and man-made disasters.

At the head of the OEM will be an emergency management coordinator. The coordinator will supervise disaster control operations in Allentown by “planning, activating and coordinating [measures].” The coordinator will also manage the “conduct of the Emergency Management Advisory Council.”

According to the borough’s 2016 salary ordinance, which was amended during the Feb. 23 council meeting, the emergency management coordinator will receive a salary within the range of $1,500 to $2,000 a year.

The emergency management coordinator will be required to be a resident of Allentown and must be appointed to a three-year term by the mayor. The person selected must complete a home study course and an emergency management workshop at the time of their appointment or within one year of that date.

According to state regulations, the coordinator will need to be able to “issue and enforce such orders as may be necessary to implement and carry out defense or disaster control operations and to protect the health, safety and resources” of the borough and its residents.

The ordinance states that the emergency management coordinator would be required to appoint a deputy emergency management coordinator, with final approval from the mayor. Only a salaried officer or employee of the borough can fill this role.

“Typically, the emergency management coordinator is an elected official and the deputy is … someone who has significant experience in riot control, crowd control, disaster preparedness and has gone through training other than the most basic courses,” Cannon said.

The ordinance will establish the Emergency Management Advisory Council, which will consist of the emergency management coordinator, the deputy emergency management coordinator, a representative of the Allentown Police Department, the Upper Freehold Township Fire Department or the Hope Fire Company, the Allentown Borough Council and the Allentown First Aid Squad, plus the supervisor of the Department of Public Works, the borough engineer, the local water utility operator and the local sewer utility operator.

Cannon said the advisory council members would meet during the year to discuss emergency response plans.

The ordinance was scheduled for adoption at the council’s March 8 meeting.

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