Indiana, PA - Indiana County

PEMA reviews IUPatty's response

by on August 05, 2014 11:00 AM

The Indiana area has the tools to deal with unexpected mob incidents in the community, but the various agencies need a plan for working together when unanticipated disruptions take place, a state agency says.

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency has completed its analysis of the reaction to large, unruly gatherings and disruptive behavior that marked the informal and unsanctioned St. Patrick’s season parties in Indiana last spring.

PEMA released the “After Action Review” on July 24, and Indiana officials met Friday to study the findings in the report, according to Indiana University of Pennsylvania officials.

Campus and community leaders jointly asked for a PEMA following so-called IUPatty’s Day parties that unexpectedly generated large crowds that clogged South Seventh Street in Indiana on March 8.

Police made more than 100 arrests at events from March 7 through 9, most of them for underage drinking and disorderly conduct. Officers concentrated efforts on controlling crowds that spread into the street, but also investigated reports of rape and assaults during the weekend, officials said.

Reports of the mayhem were carried in mainstream media in the region and by some national outlets, while countless accounts of the disturbances were spread in videos and commentaries on the Internet.

The IUPatty’s Day concept grew largely through grassroots and social media promotion, and was not sanctioned by the university. While it drew many IUP students and young residents of the Indiana area, the revelry attracted large numbers of visitors from outside Indiana County, authorities said.

In short, the Indiana area has what it takes to handle emerging crowds, PEMA said.

First-responders are well-trained to deal with mobs, a “unified stakeholder group” is committed to work together, and “adequate resources” are available, according to a list of the community’s major strengths.

But what local leaders need to do, according to PEMA, is model a “whole community” approach to preparing and responding to incidents, creating a multi-agency planning effort, and improving communications among them before, during and following events.

At the same time PEMA was asked to assess the immediate response to IUPatty’s events, local officials formed their own committees to come up with plans for handing similar future events.

Indiana Borough council in April set up a “college age activities” panel to review what happened in March.

Top leaders of the borough, IUP, Indiana County and White Township created another committee, including representatives of the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Regional Medical Center, and the Armstrong-Clarion-Indiana Drug and Alcohol Commission. Their announced plan is to unify the local forces that might be called into service in the event of unexpected uncontrolled behavior, and to consider ways of preventing mob activity.

Leaders of that panel, formed in June, announced their goal of administering the plans for future incidents, while other groups such as police and fire departments and medical responders would make specific operational plans for similar incidents.

Indiana County Commissioners Rodney Ruddock and Patricia Evanko, Indiana Borough Council President Nancy Jones, Indiana Borough Manager and Police Chief William Sutton, White Township Manager Milt Lady, IUP President Michael Driscoll and administrator Robin Gorman, chamber President Jim Struzzi, IRMC safety and security director Danny Sacco, and the drug and alcohol commission director Carrie Bence took part in the first review of the PEMA report.

In a news release issued today by IUP, local officials on the administrative panel convened Friday for their first look at PEMA’s findings and expected to meet again to put the recommendations into place.

Chauncey Ross is the Gazette’s fixture at Indiana Area and Homer-Center school board meetings, has been seen with pen and notepad in area police stations and courts, and is something of an Open Records Act and Sunshine Law advocate. He also manages the Gazette’s websites and answers your questions about them.
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