tracking system to prepare agriculture industry for terrorist attack
or natural disaster
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[MAY 20, 2005]
Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Illinois Department of Agriculture Director
Chuck Hartke announced Thursday that the state is developing new,
cutting-edge technology to help emergency officials respond more
quickly and effectively in the event of an agroterrorist attack.
After securing a federal homeland security grant through the
Illinois Terrorism Task Force homeland security program, the state
is taking initial steps to develop a computer- tracking program that
features geographic information systems technology to collect and
share information on all livestock and other agriculture resources.
Thursday’s announcement follows the success of a pilot program the
governor launched in 2003 that used GIS technology to plot
agricultural assets and livestock.
"In the event of an agroterrorist
attack, a foreign disease outbreak or other disaster situation, it
is crucial to the stability of our state’s economy that we protect
our agricultural interests," Gov. Blagojevich said. "The threat of
agroterrorism is very real in today’s world, and this technology
will enable us to make sure our food supply is better protected
and that first responders have as much detailed information as
possible to respond effectively."
The GIS project will be developed in
two phases. Phase one will collect information and develop a GIS
strategic plan for the Illinois Department of Agriculture,
focusing on animal health. Phase two will develop the software
technology to track animals and other agricultural assets to
better prepare, prevent or respond to an agricultural emergency.
"In the event of an agricultural
disaster, IDOA is just one link in the chain to ensure a timely
and successful response," Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke said.
"If there is a disease outbreak at
a dairy farm in northwestern Illinois, we would need immediate
information on where each cow came from, what they eat and where
their food is transported from to make certain we track every
possible way the disease may have been introduced or to find out
if any other herd may have been exposed so we can contain the
situation. We would also need information from the Department of
Public Health on where the milk is distributed, to stop potential
danger to the public. The more coordinated information we have,
the more effective our response will be, and this technology will
help us to do that."
The 2003 pilot project, launched
in Clinton County, used sophisticated GIS technology to plot
agricultural assets, such as livestock, grain elevators, food
processing facilities and companies that specialize in
transporting agricultural produce. The coordination of information
through this system demonstrated to Illinois Department of
Agriculture emergency staff that a coordinated and swift response
can be the difference between containment of a disease to a single
farm and widespread infection that causes the death of many
livestock and millions of dollars in lost income.
[to top of second column in this article]
The new GIS program being developed
will also track agricultural interests, as well as enable the
Department of Agriculture to share information with other agencies
and ensure a coordinated response to emergencies on several levels.
GIS Solutions, a Springfield-based company, will develop the new
system. The project will be paid for through a $165,000 federal
homeland security grant.
The development and implementation
of this technology is the latest in a series of efforts by the
governor to ensure the state is equipped to respond rapidly to an
agroterrorist attack or natural emergency that could affect our food
supply. Other steps are:
- The hiring of 10 additional
inspectors and three staff veterinarians in the department’s
Bureau of Meat and Poultry Inspection to maintain public
confidence in Illinois’ food supply.
- Increasing inspections of feed
mills and sampling of feed products to ensure that cattle feed
does not contain prohibited byproducts that can transmit bovine
spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.
- Providing specialized training in
the diagnosis of emerging foreign animal diseases to local
veterinarians, who frequently are the first to respond to an
animal disease outbreak.
- Requiring a permit for all
livestock imported into the state for production or exhibition.
The requirement gives state agriculture officials advance notice
of farm animals entering Illinois and the means to stop the
shipment of a diseased animal before it arrives in the state.
- Organizing meetings with
neighboring states to develop regional communications plans and
guidelines for tracing and controlling the movement of livestock
in an emergency.
- Constructing a new State
Emergency Operations Center that operates as the nerve center for
the state's emergency response activities. During a disaster,
officials from more than a dozen state agencies report to the
center as part of the state's effort to coordinate response
actions with local and federal emergency management officials.
[News release from the governor's office]