The Saturday, May 8, emergency response
exercise is a groundbreaking event for the state of Illinois. It
will be much like the TOPOFF 2 exercise that took place in the
Chicago-land area on May 12-16, 2003. Logan County is the first
county in Illinois to singly host a U.S. Homeland Security terrorism
and weapons of mass destruction exercise. All counties are mandated
to host one of these practices. Doing so has its merits and rewards.
The state has received U.S. Homeland
Security funding that is to be used for practices and equipment.
Logan County has been allocated up to $30,000 for this exercise. A
portion of the funds will be used to reimburse salaried personnel
for overtime they work during the practice. Some funds are also
allocated for new equipment and operational supplies.
The county has been preparing for this
exercise for over two years. A daylong strategic operation exercise
was performed in the Crisis Management Center last September. The
room was filled with representatives from every major public,
private and volunteer entity in Logan County. That exercise set the
model that will be used this Saturday.
Since that time a core group has
continued meeting weekly for the last several months now. Each
scheduled minute has been gone over again and again. Most agencies
involved have been performing training exercises on their own in
preparation. Hundreds of people have worked hundreds of hours
putting this plan and exercise together.
A series of interrelated events are
scheduled in sequence from 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The simulated events
for the morning include a multiple-vehicle accident with victims at
an industrial site, an explosion with a toxic cloud release, finding
suspicious unknown substances, a large-event evacuation, two
decontamination sites and shelter in place for victims.
Afternoon events will continue to tie
into the morning activities, with suspects involved in another
multiple-vehicle accident with injuries and extrication. Unknown
substances also will be found in one of these vehicles, shots will
be heard at an outlying utility, and a close-confinement rescue will
By evening there will have been enough
clues from the day's events to lead to the source of some of those
unknown substances that were found earlier. City and county law
enforcement tactical teams will work with Illinois State Police
special ops to secure those locations, collect the stuff and subdue
the bad guys.
Law enforcement and hazardous materials
response will be the main focus of the day. Hazardous material
identification and medical responses will also be key. Numerous
support agencies will relieve pressure and help meet public needs.
Local responders and their resources
will quickly exhaust themselves. The size of the event is intended
to prepare municipalities for large disasters that would require
assistance from numerous agencies and other jurisdictions.
Assistance will be requested for both tactical and strategic
operations in the field and in the Crisis Management Center.
"Normal will be taken up another
level," said Terry Storer, assistant ESDA, LEPC director. "We will
learn who to call and how to work with them in every function of
emergency services," he said
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in this article]
State officials from Illinois Emergency
Management Agency will participate as facilitators, controllers and
evaluators. As facilitators they will play two sides: Keep the event
on track if it gets going in the wrong direction; or, if things
happen to be going too smoothly, they will throw in some variables
to make it more challenging.
When all is done, everyone will take a
deep breath of relief. Then all will gather back in the Crisis
Management Center for debriefing and evaluation. This is when the
biggest lessons of all are learned. Emergency management consultants
from IEMA will lead a critique of the day's performance.
There have been many insights and
advancements just in the preparation. ESDA Director Dan Fulscher is
telling those who are reaching near-exhaustion from their intense
efforts just preparing for the exercise, "Even if it doesn't work,
we're successful." All portions of this exercise serve practical
preparation for common disasters and events. After all the work and
years of exercise, Fulscher concludes, "We're going to be glad this
is in place."
While numerous agencies and departments
are prepared to respond to a disaster in Logan County, the following
will be activated on Saturday:
Supporting agencies and
- Lincoln Rural Fire Department
- Chestnut Fire Department
- Armington Fire Department
- Atlanta Fire Department
- Mount Pulaski Fire Department
- Hartsburg Fire Department
- Logan Mason Mental Health
- Lincoln Streets Department
- Illinois Emergency Management
- Macon County ESDA
- National Weather Service
- Red Cross
- Salvation Army
- Logan County Highway Department
- 5th Civil Support Team, Illinois
Army National Guard, Bartonville
- REACT (radio communications)
- Logan County Disaster
Intelligence Team (strategic emergency ops)
- Lincoln Rural County Explorers
- Mutual Aid
- ESDA representatives or teams
from Macon, Sangamon and McDonaugh counties
- Illinois Homeland Security Region
Youngquist, public information officer,
Logan County ESDA, LEPC]