CHICAGO – Governor George H. Ryan along with Illinois Homeland Security Director Matthew Bettenhausen, state agency directors and state and local law enforcement officials today announced the progress of Illinois’ Homeland Security preparation since the heinous attacks of September 11, 2001.
“We’ve spent a great deal of time building up our ability to be prepared for all sorts of terrorist threats. I believe we’ve done an excellent job and I want to commend the public safety professionals who have worked tirelessly to secure our Illinois Homeland,” Governor Ryan said. “It has been a tremendous team effort.”
Since the beginning of Governor Ryan’s administration, over $182 million has been allocated through the Illinois FIRST program for over 1,800 separate public safety projects. This money has allowed local authorities to purchase equipment, to help rescuers who will first respond on the scene. Illinois FIRST has also financed new projects and upgraded public safety and security technology.
“While it is true that on September 11, 2001 our perspectives were forever changed by the nearly unthinkable, the task and charge of Illinois State Government has remained the same: to protect the homeland and be prepared to deal with any catastrophic event—whether it be the result of natural or human causes,” Illinois Homeland Security Director Matt Bettenhausen said.
In May 2000, Governor Ryan signed an executive order convening the first Illinois Terrorism Task Force (ITTF) and charged it with assuring that Illinois was ready to respond to an act of terrorism. Under the direction of the ITTF, Illinois developed three State Weapons of Mass Destruction Teams (SWMD). These inter-agency response teams are equipped to respond to an incident involving dangerous chemicals, radiation leaks and fires, as well as the lingering effects of a disaster. One of these teams was completely operational prior to September 11th, with the other two becoming operational shortly afterwards.
Members of the SWMD also provided demonstrations at the briefing of responses to potential biological, chemical, nuclear, explosive or incendiary events. Cooperation between state agencies and local police, fire and rescue departments was highlighted.
Governor Ryan said his administration also achieved a statewide mutual aid agreement through the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) before the terrorist attacks. Under the agreement, the 32 HAZMAT teams throughout the state as well as firefighters, ambulances, EMTs and equipment from hundreds of fire departments around the state are available to respond as a state asset anywhere within the state.
The Illinois Department of Public Health had taken several steps to prepare Illinois for possible medical and biological agent emergencies. Under the Department’s direction, Illinois developed four Illinois Medical Emergency Response Teams (IMERT). IMERT’s mission is to respond and assist with emergency medical treatment during a mass casualty incident involving chemical, biological or radiological incidents.
Before last September, IDPH also had upgraded its laboratories through grant money from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), enabling it to detect and analyze biological agents that may be used in a terrorist attack.
Illinois is home to the National Guard Fifth Civil Support Team (CST), transportable anywhere in the state and capable of responding to events that include chemical, nuclear and biological weapons. The Illinois CST consists of experts in chemical and biological warfare. Additionally, these teams are equipped to detect and decontaminate weapons of mass destruction events. The Illinois National Guard Team was the first team in the nation to be certified on its first try. Official certification by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld occurred on August 29, 2001.
Since last September, the Illinois Terrorism Task Force conducted a series of 16 Homeland Security Regional Training Seminars throughout the state in October and November of 2001. The seminars disseminated important information regarding terrorist methods and Illinois’ resources and preparedness. An additional series of 18 homeland security workshops for community leaders and first responders continued the process throughout this past spring.
The seminars, led to the Homeland Security Summit held on May 20th and 21st, 2002 at the University of Illinois at Springfield. The summit resulted in several issue papers on themes such as command and control, public information, funding, equipment and training needs.
Both state and federal money has supplemented Illinois’ terrorism preparedness efforts. The State of Illinois has appropriated or received in federal funds over $274 million dollars for homeland security efforts.
That included the nearly $17 million that Governor Ryan and the General Assembly provided in a Supplemental Appropriation for specific domestic preparedness projects. This money expanded the State Pharmaceutical Stockpile, and assisted IEMA, the Illinois State Police, the Department of Agriculture, the Office of the State Fire Marshal, and the Illinois Fire Service Institute for equipment and training.
Illinois received over $42 million from the United States Department of Health and Human Services to bolster Illinois’ preparedness for bioterrorism and other public health emergencies. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the United States Fire Administration have provided Illinois fire departments with over $2 million worth of grants for equipment, prevention and training. In the near future, Illinois will receive $10.6 million for equipment purchases and exercise assistance from the Department of Justice.
The Governor said the state would seek more federal funding to further reach its goals including:
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sponsored Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR):
- 18 Response Regions to bring response time for specialized emergency teams under an hour
- Expanded and integrated telecommunications systems for both state and local public safety agencies
- Lake Michigan Coast Guard and Joint Use Marine Safety Station near Navy Pier in Chicago
- Expansion of MABAS
- Creation of a Law Enforcement Mutual Aid agreement modeled after the MABAS system
- TOPOFF2 exercise in Spring of 2003
- Expansion of President Bush’s Citizen Corps homeland security volunteerism initiative.
“I can promise the people of Illinois this: We will not rest until we have done everything possible to secure our communities and protect our families,” Governor Ryan added.