State promotes citizens’ role in handling emergencies
By Denise Linke For The Courier-News June 29, 2012 9:30PM
Jonathon Monken, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, said more citizen and business input is needed in dealing with major emergencies around the state.
Updated: August 2, 2012 10:28AM
SUGAR GROVE — A decade ago, Illinois’ Emergency Management Agency started spending just over $1 billion in federal Homeland Security aid to prepare its 2-year-old terrorist task force to cope with post-9/11 security threats.
Now that money is gone, and the IEMA’s budget has dropped to just under $12 million for next year — nearly 90 percent less than the $107 million it received in 2005, said Director Jonathon Monken at a “town hall” forum last week at Waubonsee Community College.
“Budgets are tighter these days. The time for redundant efforts is done. We have to integrate our efforts and make the most of what resources we have,” said Monken, a St. Charles native.
Most of the 40-plus participants at the WCC forum represented local police and fire departments.
They spent much of the three-hour session identifying the weak spots in their disaster relief plans and discussing ways the IEMA could help shore them up.
“All disasters start and end locally,” Monken said. “If the system doesn’t work locally, it’s not worth anything.”
Besides working with police and fire departments and public health agencies, the IEMA now hopes to involve businesses and the general public in disaster relief planning, IEMA Assistant Director Joe Klinger said.
The agency has launched a website, www.ready.illinois.gov, that people can use to offer or receive information about specific disasters.
“We got 2.2 million hits on that site during the ‘Snowmageddon’ blizzard in February 2011,” Klinger noted.
The agency’s current project is the Business Emergency Operations Center, a virtual “cloud” information network shared by public agencies and private businesses.
When disaster strikes an area, both sides can use the network to exchange information and coordinate relief efforts, Monken said.
“For example, the state could ship in basic pharmaceuticals to a community, but if we help Walgreens and CVS keep their stores open and their trucks moving into that area, they can get those pharmaceuticals to the people who need them much more quickly and efficiently,” Monken said.
Residents can join the effort, too. The IEMA’s Citizen Corps helps cities, counties and other local agencies recruit and train volunteers to help during an emergency or with public disaster preparedness education, explained Director Michelle Hanneken.
“Volunteers can do anything from handing out disaster preparedness leaflets at public events to filling sandbags, helping police direct traffic or just checking in with their neighbors to see if they need any help,” she said.
Citizen Corps councils in the Fox Valley include Aurora and DuPage, Kane and Will counties, she added.