Pope Visit Prompts State of Emergency Declaration

Pope FrancisYou can plan for man-made and natural disasters, from fires to floods – but do you know what to do when the Pope comes to town?

That’s the problem facing a township outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as it gears up for the visiting religious leader. He’s coming to Philly’s Center City September 26-27 for the World Meeting of Families, and as a result, SEPTA, the city’s public transit system, now faces a potentially crippling overload!

Here’s how widespread the problem is: the Bucks County township of Middletown (about 100 miles west of Philadelphia) has one of the five train stations in the county that SEPTA has chosen to serve tens of thousands of people visiting the city that weekend. But the station only has 400 parking spots. And major roadways I-95 and Route 1 also pass through town.

As a result, Police Chief Joe Bartorilla has recommended the state of emergency declaration to the township’s board of supervisors. Sound extreme? Bartorilla thinks so too – he told the Bucks County Courier-Times he’d “prefer to call it a state of preparedness” – since his logic isn’t based on panic of a town overrun by papal enthusiasts.

Declaring a state of emergency ensures all necessary public workers will be on deck that weekend, while making Middletown eligible for any state or federal funding that might become available to pay back police overtime or other costs.

Nearby Bristol Township is also pushing for a state of emergency – less over overtime concerns, and more because of increased potential for accidents on those major roadways that pass through, especially those accidents that involve chartered buses and other high-occupancy vehicles.

Those decisions will probably be made come September before the Pope-Mania hits in the City of Brotherly Love.

Is your organization in the greater Philadelphia area? Email us your plans for preparing for the Pope’s visit at brojas@drii.org!

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