Tuesday, May 2

Three-day exercise to test state's ability to handle pandemic flu and terrorist events begins today          Send a link to a friend

Nearly 2,000 to participate at several venues

[MAY 2, 2006]  SPRINGFIELD -- An ambitious three-day exercise designed to test the state's preparedness for handling a major health crisis and simultaneous terrorist attack begins today as state and Chicago-area officials begin dealing with a fictional pandemic flu outbreak. (Please note: This is an exercise only, designed to improve emergency planning and preparedness.) Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich ordered this large-scale exercise last fall after Hurricane Katrina revealed major problems with preparedness and emergency response in the Gulf Coast region.

"Illinois' emergency preparedness and response is recognized as one of the best in the nation, and I know we're well-prepared to handle most disasters," Blagojevich said. "If we're ever faced with a major disaster or simultaneous events, we need to know that all levels of our plan work, such as communications between state and local officials, communications between response organizations, and training and equipment. This aggressive exercise should help us both validate where our plan works and identify areas that need further attention."

The exercise scenario was initiated last week when exercise participants began receiving messages alerting them to the development of an influenza outbreak in Asia. The full exercise will kick off around 1 p.m. today as the scenario continues to progress. The exercise continues all day tomorrow with the addition of a terrorist attack element and concludes on Thursday afternoon. Participants will then meet to discuss how the exercise went and begin examining "lessons learned" from the experience.

More than 50 representatives from state and federal agencies and the American Red Cross will report to the State Incident Response Center within the State Emergency Operations Center in Springfield to assess the situation and coordinate with the city of Chicago and Cook County on how the state can assist with the pandemic outbreak in the Chicago area. Nearly 2,000 participants are expected to take part in the exercise at several venues.

This week's exercise is the latest effort by the governor to improve the state's preparedness for dealing with major emergencies. Others include the following:

  • On Sunday, Blagojevich signed two laws focused on improving security at public utilities and railroad terminals. House Bill 4419 requires all public utilities to maintain a security policy and conduct practice exercises annually, and Senate Bill 2489 allows railroads to utilize electric fencing and monitoring equipment at terminals.

  • Last week Blagojevich signed Senate Bill 2921, which enables cities or counties with emergency response plans approved by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to enlist volunteer health care professionals to help distribute medications if the governor has declared a disaster. The change will now allow communities to more efficiently handle health care crises on a local level in coordination with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

  • Also last week, Blagojevich announced that an Illinois Department of Agriculture lab in Galesburg is the first lab in the state to receive certification to perform vital testing for avian influenza. This lab will enable the state to significantly cut down the time it takes to determine whether a suspected case of bird flu may be positive, allowing Illinois to quickly activate the response. [Related article]

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Illinois FluEx 2006 fact sheet
May 2-4


  • Illinois FluEx 2006 is full-scale exercise dealing with highly contagious communicable disease and weapons of mass destruction. The exercise is sponsored by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Preparedness Directorate's Office of Grants and Training.

  • Illinois FluEx 2006 is an intrastate exercise involving the coordination of preparedness, response and recovery activities between the state of Illinois and the Chicago Urban Area Security Initiative, which is between the city of Chicago and Cook County.

  • Illinois FluEx 2006 is a three-day exercise that focuses on command-level decision-making, crisis prevention, responder safety, resource management, population protection and public information in response to a public health emergency and a simultaneous terrorist incident.


  • This exercise will focus on key emergency responder coordination, critical decisions and the integration of state and local assets during a public health emergency and simultaneous terrorist incident.

  • Illinois FluEx 2006 will establish a learning environment for state and local agencies to exercise their protocols for responding to a public health emergency and simultaneous terrorist incident.

  • Illinois FluEx 2006 will provide the state of Illinois and the Chicago Urban Area Security Initiative an opportunity to implement current response plans and capabilities to:

    1. Reveal planning weaknesses in emergency operations plans or standard operating procedures and to test and validate recently changed procedures.

    2. Improve the coordination between and among various response organizations, elected officials and community support organizations.

    3. Validate training on the critical elements of emergency response in accordance with the National Incident Management System.

    4. Increase the general awareness and understanding of highly infectious diseases and hazards of potential chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives.

    5. Identify additional resources, equipment and personnel needed to prepare for and respond to a public health emergency and simultaneous terrorist incident.

Validation of preparedness since TOPOFF

  • The exercise will serve as a mechanism to validate the preparedness efforts -- the lessons learned -- since Illinois' participation in the second National Top Officials exercise, known as TOPOFF2, in May 2003.

  • TOPOFF is a congressionally-mandated exercise series designed to train top officials and first responders and develop a coordinated national and international response to terrorist attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.

  • The May 2003 event was the second national training and coordinating exercise combating terrorism and engaging top officials from the federal, state and local levels. TOPOFF2 culminated in an exercise in mid-May 2003 dealing with weapons of mass destruction and involving, among others, Seattle and the state of Washington, Chicago and the state of Illinois, and Canada.

  • Illinois is the first state to conduct a full-scale exercise to validate the lessons learned from the TOPOFF series exercise.

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Primary exercise objectives

  • The state of Illinois has established the following objectives for the exercise:

    1. Demonstrate the ability to implement an incident command system, transition to a unified command, and effectively direct, coordinate and manage a response to an emergency.

    2. Demonstrate the ability to establish and maintain effective communications among all appropriate response locations, agencies and emergency response personnel during a response to an emergency.

    3. Demonstrate the ability to activate, staff and use an emergency operations center to coordinate and support multilevel agencies responding to an emergency.

    4. Demonstrate the capability to initiate appropriate mass care steps to minimize the effects of the outbreak and support other agencies in their response efforts to an emergency.

    5. Demonstrate the ability to identify, mobilize and manage resources required to support a prolonged response to an emergency.

    6. Demonstrate the ability to protect the health and safety of emergency response personnel in response to an emergency.

    7. Demonstrate the ability to coordinate and disseminate accurate information to the public using all facets of the media during the response to an emergency.

    8. Demonstrate the ability to identify and implement appropriate protective actions, based upon projected risks posed to the public by an emergency.

    9. Demonstrate the ability of the community to maintain the continuity of operations and continuity of government during and in the aftermath of an emergency.

Primary locations for exercise activities

  • State Emergency Operations Center, Springfield

  • Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications

  • Cook County Department of Public Health, Oak Park

  • Northern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy, Glenview

Schedule of major events

  • Tuesday, May 2

    • 10 a.m. -- Pre-exercise media briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center

    • 1 p.m. -- Start of Day 1 exercise play

    • 6 p.m. -- End of Day 1 exercise play

    • 6 p.m. -- Day 1 exercise media briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center

  • Wednesday, May 3

    • 8 a.m. -- Start of Day 2 exercise play

    • 8:15 a.m. -- Homeland security and exercise media briefing at Northern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy

    • 6 p.m. -- End of Day 2 exercise play

    • 6 p.m. -- Day 2 exercise media briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center

  • Thursday, May 4

    • 8 a.m. -- Start of Day 3 exercise play

    • 10 a.m. -- Media briefing at the James R. Thompson Center press room, Chicago

    • 2 p.m. -- End of Day 3 exercise play

    • 2 p.m. -- Day 3 media briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center

  • Friday, May 5

    • Time to be announced -- Post-exercise media briefing

Participating agencies and organizations

  • State of Illinois agencies, mutual aid systems and nongovernmental organizations

    1. Governor's office

    2. Illinois Emergency Management Agency

    3. Illinois State Police

    4. Illinois National Guard

    5. Illinois Department of Transportation

    6. Illinois Commerce Commission

    7. Illinois Department of Corrections

    8. American Red Cross

    9. Illinois Department of Public Health

    10. Central Management Services

    11. Office of the State Fire Marshal

    12. Illinois Department of Agriculture

    13. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

    14. Illinois Department of Natural Resources

    15. Illinois Department of Human Services

    16. Secretary of State Police

    17. Office of the Attorney General

    18. Mutual Aid Box Alarm System

    19. Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System

  • Local government agencies

    1. City of Chicago

    2. Cook County

Funding to support exercise

  • The exercise is being conducted at no cost to the state of Illinois.

  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Preparedness Directorate's Office of Grants and Training is providing direct support to the state of Illinois for the development and evaluation of the exercise.

  • The state of Illinois will use federal homeland security funding to support personnel costs associated with the activation of local public safety agencies participating in the exercise. It is estimated the exercise will cost approximately $750,000 in federal homeland security funding.

[News release from the governor's office]

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