disaster exercise tests emergency response capabilities
Send a link to a friend
evacuation and sheltering preparedness tested on Friday
[AUG. 5, 2006]
METRO EAST -- Illinois' ability to evacuate
large numbers of people and provide adequate shelter for evacuees
was put to the test Friday as the state began a large-scale
emergency response exercise in the Metro East area. Last fall, Gov.
Rod R. Blagojevich directed the state to conduct a mass evacuation
and sheltering exercise after preparedness plans in the Gulf Coast
failed to safeguard people in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
"Hurricane Katrina taught us an important lesson -- we need to make
sure we're able to evacuate and shelter thousands of people if
widespread disaster ever hits here in Illinois," Blagojevich said.
"But, it's not enough just to craft a plan on paper; you have to put
those plans to the test. This exercise will teach us what we do well
and what part of our plan needs work, so if disaster strikes, we're
The exercise scenario got under way early Friday morning with
local emergency response agencies receiving notification of a
simulated explosion at the Triple Crown facility in Edwardsville,
involving a hazardous materials release. As the situation escalated,
local responders requested assistance from the state to support
ongoing efforts with evacuation and mass sheltering efforts. In
response, the State Emergency Operations Center in Springfield was
activated to coordinate state assistance to local response
organizations. The state dispatched staff and equipment to the
scene, including a new Unified Area Command vehicle, which provides
meeting space, office equipment and communications capability to
facilitate coordination between multiple emergency response
organizations at a disaster scene.
Liberty Middle School in Edwardsville is serving as the mass
shelter location. Volunteers posing as evacuees arrived by car and
bus throughout the day and were assisted by representatives from the
American Red Cross. The mock evacuees were registered at the shelter
and were offered food and provided personal care items, such as
toothbrushes and toothpaste. The shelter will also have nurses and
mental health professionals available. It was expected that up to
1,000 "evacuees" would be processed at the facility on Friday.
[to top of second column]
In addition, the state's Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team
set up an alternate treatment facility on the grounds of Liberty
Middle School to augment local medical capacity during the simulated
crisis. IMERT, a volunteer organization of doctors, nurses,
paramedics and other medical personnel, is trained and equipped to
respond to and assist with emergency medical treatment at mass
casualty incidents. Following Hurricane Katrina, Blagojevich sent 50
IMERT members to Baton Rouge, La., where they helped establish a
field hospital and attended to thousands of evacuees from the
hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.
While responders deal with Friday's simulated emergency
situation, other components of the exercise scenario will begin
unfolding that will lead into activities Monday and Tuesday.
The Metro East exercise, known as "Prairie Thunder," is the
state's second significant emergency response exercise within the
past three months. In May, the state conducted a three-day exercise
that tested Illinois' ability to respond to simultaneous major
emergencies, which included a pandemic flu outbreak and a terrorist
attack in the Chicago metropolitan area. More than 1,000
participants from federal, state and local agencies are involved in
the Prairie Thunder exercise.
[News release from the governor's