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August 2, 2006

Governor Blagojevich announces a major emergency response exercise to test state’s plans for large-scale evacuations, terrorism response
More than 1,000 federal, state and local responders participating in state’s second major exercise in three months

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced a major emergency response exercise beginning Friday in the Metro East area will test the state’s ability to respond to large-scale emergencies and for the first time will include a mass evacuation and sheltering component. The exercise will be 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 centered in the Chicago metropolitan area.

“Much of the suffering we all watched unfold following Hurricane Katrina was the result of inadequate evacuation planning,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “We need to know that our plans will work before disaster strikes and not once disaster strikes. This exercise will help us build on the lessons we learned during May’s successful pandemic flu and terrorism exercise, and further strengthen our emergency preparedness.”

Last September, the Governor called for a major test of the state’s preparedness following Hurricane Katrina, when emergency response in the Gulf Coast was overwhelmed by the nation’s largest natural disaster. The May and August exercises were designed to severely stress response capabilities to demonstrate both strengths and weaknesses in emergency response plans.

The exercise is designed to bring federal, state and local response organizations together in a coordinated response to multiple emergency scenarios. Exercise events on Friday will trigger a simulated evacuation and sheltering situation in Edwardsville, with mock evacuees being picked up and transported to the shelter at Liberty Middle School in Edwardsville. Other exercise scenarios during the five-day exercise include intelligence gathering and response to simulated terrorist attacks, distribution of materials from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), victim search and rescue efforts and establishment of a field hospital for treating “victims.”

“For an exercise to be truly effective, you must bring together the federal, state and local agencies that would be involved in a real emergency,” said Col. Jill Morgenthaler, the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Public Safety. “Because we have so many key agencies at all levels of government participating in this exercise, we will be able to test our abilities to communicate and coordinate during a major disaster.”

More than 1,000 participants from federal, state and local agencies are involved in the exercise. Federal participating agencies include the FBI and the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).

State agencies and special response teams taking part in the exercise include the Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center (STIC), the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), the Illinois National Guard (ILNG), the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM), the American Red Cross, the State Weapons of Mass Destruction Teams (SWMDT), the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS), the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS), the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team and the Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team (IMERT).

Local exercise participants include Madison County, the City of Edwardsville’s fire and police departments, the City of Madison’s fire and police departments and the Edwardsville Community Schools.

The ILNG took the lead on planning for the Metro East exercise, a task that took several months. “We are very fortunate in Illinois to have federal, state and local agencies willing to work together to prepare for such an event. The training we receive in these types of exercises will equate to lives saved during a real event,” said Major General Randal Thomas, ILNG Adjutant General.

Exercise participants will review and critique each component of the exercise and a comprehensive After Action Review will be presented to the Illinois Terrorism Task Force at its August 23 meeting.


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