"Illinois has the strongest mutual aid system in the country,
including fire services, law enforcement, emergency management and
public health responders," Blagojevich said. "The exercise scenario
today [Wednesday] will test the capabilities of several special
response teams. If we're ever faced with a major disaster or
simultaneous events, we want to know that all levels of our plan
work, such as communications between state and local officials,
communications between response organizations, and training and
In response to the terrorism scenario, the state deployed its new
Unified Area Command vehicle, a 53-foot semitrailer that serves as
the mobile vehicle for incident command at any incident scene.
Decision-makers from fire, police and other emergency response
organizations responding to an incident can make coordinated action
decisions within this fully outfitted vehicle. The Unified Area
Command post enables the state to demonstrate the ability to set up
and operate a National Incident Management System-compliant Unified
Area Command system in the field.
The state also used a digital satellite vehicle to send real-time
video and audio from the simulated disaster scene to the State
Emergency Operations Center in Springfield, where state leaders
viewed the live scenes, which aided in decision-making.
The staged terrorist scenario involved an explosion at a regional
transportation facility with victims trapped in a collapsed
building. The events were set up at the Northern Illinois Public
Safety Training Academy in Glenview. More than 1,600 responders,
mock victims, exercise controllers and evaluators took part in this
segment of the exercise. Special response teams involved in
Wednesday's activities included:
teams, which are trained and equipped to perform high-angle,
collapsed trench and confined space rescue operations.
Emergency Response Teams, which are trained and equipped to
coordinate medical care during emergencies.
teams, which are trained and equipped for response to incidents
involving any hazardous or unknown chemical or petroleum
Events at the training academy site were coordinated by the
Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, the fire service's mutual aid
The exercise began on Tuesday afternoon, as Blagojevich activated
the State Emergency Response Center in the wake of a simulated
worldwide pandemic flu. In addition to handling a growing scenario
involving the pandemic flu, the emergency center also received
briefings about potential terrorist threats reported by the
Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center. The emergency center
also responded to "requests" for assistance to a fictional overnight
flood in Arlington Heights. Wednesday morning, state and local
officials continued handling response to the pandemic scenario when
they received word of a possible terrorist attack.
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The final day of the exercise is today (Thursday), when participants
address the long-term effects of the pandemic flu. At the conclusion
of the exercise, a review of "lessons learned" will occur.
More than 50 representatives from state and federal agencies and
the American Red Cross are operating out of the State Incident
Response Center within the State Emergency Operations Center in
Springfield throughout the exercise 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.
This week's exercise is the latest effort by Blagojevich to
improve the state's preparedness for dealing with major emergencies.
Others include the following:
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 use electric fencing
and monitoring equipment at terminals.
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 allow communities to more efficiently
handle health care crises on a local level in coordination with
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.
[News release from the governor's