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Franklin County creates emergency department

April 22, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County recently joined about half a dozen other counties in Pennsylvania that have created a Department of Emergency Services.

The county's emergency communications system, emergency management agency and hazardous materials offices are now under one director, according to Jerry Flasher, the new director of emergency services.

"I want to applaud Franklin County for what I consider a quantum leap in emergency management," said Joe Daugherty, director of the Central Area Office of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

The creation of the department on April 2 resulted in some shuffling of chairs. Flasher, a 19-year county employee, moved up to the full-time director's position from his previous post as communications director. Bryan Stevenson, a veteran 911 dispatcher, replaced him as communications coordinator and Hazardous Materials Coordinator Dennis Monn became the Emergency Management Agency coordinator.

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The county is in the process of hiring a new hazardous materials coordinator.

County Planning Director Phil Tarquino had been the county's part-time emergency management coordinator since 1987. Daugherty presented him with his professional emergency management coordinator certification, telling him the county has been at the forefront of emergency communications and hazardous materials planning.

"I think the floods and the storms of 1996 and 1997 called to our attention the need for a Department of Emergency Services," said County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott. During that period, the county and many others in the state suffered through a series of blizzards and floods that tested the emergency management system.

Daugherty credited the county emergency management team with helping citizens get $1 million in federal assistance for temporary housing, rental assistance and other aid. He said local governments received another $250,000 in federal assistance.

"Understanding what has happened to you in an event like that is not an easy task," Daugherty said.

Counties provide immediate relief to victims and collect the information that is passed on to state and federal emergency management agencies.

The director's position, which pays approximately $40,000 a year, and the department were included in the 1998 county budget and did not require a tax increase, Elliott said. The budget for 911 communications, emergency management and hazardous materials is more than $1.4 million, according to county records.

Elliott said freeing Tarquino of emergency management duties will allow him to devote more time to planning, including an ongoing update of the county's comprehensive plan.

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