SUSQUEHANNA TOWNSHIP, DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. -- The first snowfall of the season may have come a bit early, however the folks at Pennsylvania’s Emergency Management Agency are always ready to gear into action.
At their headquarters in Dauphin County, PEMA works alongside various state agencies like PennDOT, the PUC, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and State Police.
“They’re all here working coordinating what efforts are going on out in the communities and out on the different roads in Pennsylvania," said Jeff Thomas, PEMA's Executive Deputy Director.
PEMA has staff watching for any weather hazards that may impact our state around the clock, especially those that may affect more than one county.
Depending on the event, local emergency management agencies will sometimes need an extra hand. That's when PEMA steps in, helping to coordinate a response.
“So let’s say there was a power outage in a long term care home, we would be able to coordinate that, if they needed generators, we have generators we can get to them," said Thomas.
Inside the headquarters a large screen is filled with information with everything from news station broadcasts across the state, to power outages and road closures . All of it is updated in real-time.
“We’re looking at the data, we’re looking at everything in a graphical way so we can know what’s going on in the entire state," added Thomas.
There's also a watch and warning center with a number of operators keeping an eye on road conditions, social media and more.
They're the ones responsible for those weather alerts that come through to your phone.
"Just because there’s a storm that’s going on now doesn’t mean that there aren’t other activities going on that they still need to pay attention to, it's constant, it's all the time," said Thomas.
All that information is then handed off to what PEMA calls the 'Situation Awareness Unit’ that gathers all of that final storm data.
“It’s vitally important that everybody that is involved in that incident is seeing the same information and the same time," said David Nitsch, planning section chief at PEMA.
Nitsch says making sure everyone on the same page helps so that they can together decide if action needs to be taken.
"Our job is to keep an eye on this if it starts to get away from the local folks," added Thomas.