SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today dispatched an 11-member Incident Management Team (IMT) to George County, Mississippi to help emergency management personnel dealing with one of the largest natural disasters in U.S. history.
“We continue to look at ways that we can help with the desperate situation in the Gulf coast,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “In addition to the 52 Illinois Medical Emergency Management Team members and more than 300 National Guard personnel that have been deployed, we now have these 11 emergency management professionals who responded quickly to our call for assistance and are preparing to take off this afternoon. I am very proud of the way Illinoisans are stepping forward to help our fellow men in need.”
The 11-member IMT team includes two Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) employees and nine local emergency management managers from around the state. The group will be departing from Springfield Friday afternoon and stopping in Madison County to pick up a mobile command vehicle, which was purchased through a grant from the Illinois Terrorism Task Force for Homeland Security Region 16. The specially-outfitted command vehicle provides space for up to 12 decision makers at a field location, along with communications equipment to aid with emergency communications. The vehicle was presented to the Madison County Emergency Management Agency in June, with the provision that it could be used anywhere it is needed.
The team is being deployed for 14 days, and a replacement team will be deployed in about 13 days to take over their mission. The IMT is taking along provisions to sustain them for 14 days, including water and Meals Ready to Eat (MREs).
On Wednesday, Gov. Blagojevich authorized the Illinois National Guard to send up to fifty military vehicles and 300 soldiers to Louisiana to assist in Hurricane Katrina cleanup efforts. The soldiers assembled in Springfield and left for Louisiana this morning. Also today, 40-person Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team (IMERT) members are heading to Louisiana to assist with massive numbers of sick and injured victims from Hurricane Katrina. This new team will join an 11-member IMERT team, which left Wednesday morning, in Baton Rouge.
On Thursday, the Governor ordered Illinois public schools to waive residency requirements and enroll any child displaced by Hurricane Katrina who relocates to live with family, friends or in a shelter in Illinois. Hundreds of thousands of children in the Gulf States were displaced by the devastating storm and many schools may not re-open for months, if not the entire school year. In addition, the Governor opened the Illinois’ Community College system to any student from Illinois who attends college in the Gulf States and needs somewhere to continue their education.
The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) continues to be fully activated with representatives of more than a dozen state agencies and IEMA personnel who are assessing assets their agencies could provide to assist disaster response and recovery efforts. The SEOC is in continual contact with Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) officials in the affected to states to coordinate requests for assistance with assets Illinois can offer.
“We’re very fortunate to have such dedicated, well-trained liaisons in our SEOC that are working feverishly to get critically-needed assistance to these devastated states,” said William C. Burke, IEMA Director.