A small township in Pennsylvania has declared a state of emergency ahead of Pope Francis' visit to the United States in September. Authorities in Middletown, Pennsylvania, which is about two hours outside of Philadelphia, recently decided to adopt the emergency designation in an effort to help prepare for the pontiff's stopover. It could increase security and make applying for federal reimbursement easier, the Bucks County Courier Times reported.
The pope is set to visit the U.S. for the first time since his election in 2013 to speak at the World Meeting of Families, an international conference sponsored by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, on Sept. 26-27. More than 1.5 million people are expected to flock to Philadelphia to attend, NBC News reported.
Local police said Francis' appearances could also cause car and train traffic in nearby Middletown. To handle this, local authorities were predicting they'd need overtime officers and other tools -- the primary reason behind the state of emergency declaration.
“As of right now, this event has been classified in a way federally that allows no federal reimbursement for any expenses a municipality incurs as a result of the pope’s visit,” police Chief Joseph Bartorilla told the Courier Times. “However, should funds become available, it is better for us that we declared a state of emergency and that we completed and have ready all of the necessary FEMA and PEMA paperwork, which would be required to obtain any federal or state reimbursement funds.”
Bartorilla said he plans to send staff to the train stations to help with the flow of commuters. He said he'd station officers in Philadelphia with water, air-conditioned tents and possibly restrooms, levittownnow.com reported.
Having a state of emergency classification allows Bartorilla to request these overtime workers and ask for resources like electronic signboards telling drivers which roads are closed. Though Middletown was the first Bucks County municipality to declare a state of emergency, it likely won't be the last -- Warminster and Tullytown were considering it, as well.
"The primary reason it will likely be declared here is having the state of emergency tends to open up communication, so that in the event of traffic gridlock, it allows emergency responders to get to a place where they might be needed as quickly as possible,” Warminster interim township manager Steve Wiesner told the Courier Times.
The state of emergency in Middletown will run from 8 p.m. Sept. 25 to 8 a.m. Sept. 28. See Pope Francis' full itinerary for his U.S. trip here.