Friday, May 7


Lincoln's Saturday to begin with
a big bang      
Send a link to a friend

Logan County prepares for U.S. Homeland Security exercise

[MAY 7, 2004]  Residents need not worry on Saturday morning if they hear what sounds like an explosion. Some may also notice an increased number of firetrucks, law enforcement or official-looking vehicles in town. It might even be a comfort to know that it marks the beginning of teams coming together from all over the city, county and beyond to practice.

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 be needed.

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


[to top of second column 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:

Lead agencies

  • Logan County Sheriff's Department and Emergency Response Team (SWAT)
  • Logan County Health Department
  • Logan County Paramedic Association
  • Lincoln Fire Department and Hazardous Materials Team
  • Lincoln Police Department and Emergency Response Team (SWAT)
  • Logan County ESDA, LEPC, 911
  • Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital
  • Illinois State Police and representatives of the state WMD tactical team
  • Illinois Emergency Management Agency

Supporting agencies and departments

  • Lincoln Rural Fire Department
  • Chestnut Fire Department
  • Armington Fire Department
  • Atlanta Fire Department
  • Mount Pulaski Fire Department
  • Hartsburg Fire Department
  • Logan Mason Mental Health Department
  • Lincoln Streets Department
  • Illinois Emergency Management Agency
  • Macon County ESDA
  • National Weather Service
  • Red Cross
  • Salvation Army
  • Logan County Highway Department
  • 5th Civil Support Team, Illinois Army National Guard, Bartonville
  • Groups
  • REACT (radio communications)
  • Logan County Disaster Intelligence Team (strategic emergency ops)
  • Lincoln Rural County Explorers (messengers)
  • Mutual Aid
  • ESDA representatives or teams from Macon, Sangamon and McDonaugh counties
  • Illinois Homeland Security Region 14

[Jan Youngquist, public information officer,
Logan County ESDA, LEPC]

< Top Stories index

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law & Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health & Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor