"Since I took office, one of my top
priorities has been making sure that Illinois has the ability to
prevent and deter acts of terror, while at the same time making sure
we have the ability to effectively react and respond to a terrorist
attack," Blagojevich said. "Today's award is a sign that our hard
work is paying off."
Rizvi, director of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance at
Harvard University, and Dr. Lydia Thomas, president and chief
executive office of Mitretek Systems, presented the award to the
Judge William Webster, former head
of the CIA and FBI and chairman of the award selection committee,
praised Illinois' homeland security program as a standard for other
states to meet.
"The Illinois State Weapons of Mass
Destruction Teams won the 2004 Mitretek Innovations award because of
their strong, well-led integration of skills and capabilities to
provide effective statewide protection and response to emergencies
in real time," Webster said. "Other states can and should replicate
Gov. Blagojevich expressed
appreciation to members of the Illinois Terrorism Task Force, which
developed the state's homeland security plan to provide seven layers
of terrorism response to every part of the state. The State Weapons
of Mass Destruction Teams represent one of those response layers.
Several Illinois Terrorism Task Force members were present for the
award ceremony, which followed the task force's monthly meeting at
Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy.
"We're very honored to receive such
a prestigious award that reflects the great partnership forged
between law enforcement, fire, emergency management, public health
and the other disciplines from throughout the state," said Mike
Chamness, chairman of the Illinois Terrorism Task Force. "Each of
the more than 60 agencies, organizations and groups that comprise
the task force should be commended for setting aside any turf issues
and working together to develop homeland security programs like the
one being recognized here today."
Following the award presentation,
one of the state's three WMD teams demonstrated its capabilities to
quickly set up decontamination lines and prepare to deploy into a
"hot," or contaminated, zone. The team also displayed
state-of-the-art decontamination and detection equipment, including
The State Weapons of Mass
Destruction Teams are positioned in the northern, central and
southern sections of the state to provide response to a WMD incident
anywhere in the state within 60 to 90 minutes of notification.
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Over the last three years, the
Illinois Terrorism Task Force has developed a series of initiatives
to deter and respond to terrorist attacks. These include the
- One of the nation's leading
bioterrorism response systems.
- One of the nation's best urban
search and rescue teams.
- The creation and construction of
the State Emergency Oprations Center, a state-of-the-art emergency
response facility that will house all vital emergency response
leaders and functions under one roof.
- Development of one of the
nation's most robust mutual aid networks, including the Mutual Aid
Box Alarm System for fire services and the Illinois Law
Enforcement Alarm System for law enforcement. These networks,
which support small communities in times of emergency, are made up
of local fire departments, police offices and sheriff's offices.
- Distribution of personal
protective equipment to every firefighter in Illinois and a
commitment to distributing this equipment to all state law
The Illinois Terrorism Task Force is
also exploring new counter-terrorism initiatives, including:
- Mutual aid networks for public
health and emergency management.
- A vehicle and cargo inspection
system, which uses gamma ray sensors to check cargo in vehicles.
- A bridge surveillance program,
which will place security cameras at select bridges across the
During the summer, representatives
of the award selection committee conducted site visits to applicant
programs and prepared a report for the committee. On Sept. 8,
Illinois was named one of five finalists for the award from a field
of over 70 applicants. The following week, officials from the
Illinois Terrorism Task Force made a presentation to the selection
committee at Harvard University.
Other finalists for the award
included the City of Portland, Ore., for a secure
information-sharing program for first responders and other public
safety stakeholders; the U.S. Navy for a hospital disaster
preparedness program; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
for a collaboration of laboratories to detect biological or chemical
agents that could be used as terrorist weapons; and Los Angeles
County, Calif., for a networked Terrorism Early Warning Group.
[News release from the