SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that he is deploying nearly 1,100 more Illinoisans to help Louisiana respond to the devastation resulting from Hurricane Katrina, one of the largest natural disasters to every occur in the U.S. The latest deployments include nearly 600 firefighters who are leaving today and 500 National Guard troops that are preparing to depart for Louisiana on Wednesday.
“We’re continuing to work day and night to find every possible way to help our fellow Americans in the Gulf Coast as they struggle to survive and recover from this horrific disaster,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “I’m very proud of all the men and women who have stepped forward to provide vital assistance during this crisis, which is far from over. And I know Illinoisans will continue to step up to the plate in the weeks and months to come.”
The Governor said Illinois activated the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS), the fire services mutual aid system, to deploy nearly 600 firefighters from around Illinois to supplement New Orleans’ over-taxed fire department. Seven command officers are flying down today and more than 580 firefighters will follow with ladder and pumper trucks, command vehicles and other vital firefighting equipment. The fire services contingent is expected to remain in Louisiana for two weeks.
In addition, three Illinois National Guard units are undergoing processing at their respective duty stations in preparation for Wednesday’s departure. They include the:
· 33rd Area Support Group, based in Chicago, for logistics, maintenance and transportation;
· 634th Forward Support Battalion, based in Sullivan, Champaign and Springfield, for supply maintenance and medical support; and
· Detachment 3, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 35th Infantry Division, based in Decatur, which will assist in command and control of National Guard forces from states other than Louisiana and Mississippi. Those two states will remain under their states’ control.
This latest deployment brings to 800 the number of Illinois National Guard troops sent to Louisiana. On Friday, 300 Illinois National Guard troops and more than 50 vehicles departed from Camp Lincoln in Springfield.
On Sunday, the Governor announced Illinois will take in 5,000 to 10,000 displaced victims from the areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, providing housing, medical care, food, clothing and any services displaced families and individuals need at this time of crisis. The Governor also called on the entire community to match the state’s coordinate relief effort.
Since Hurricane Katrina made landfall Monday, Gov. Blagojevich ordered all state agencies to respond in a coordinated manner to help both the recovery and cleanup efforts in the Gulf Coast, and the evacuees coming into Illinois. Illinois’ efforts to date include:
- On Saturday, 134 highly trained law enforcement officers from state and local agencies were deployed to Louisiana. These include Weapons of Mass Destruction teams, Tactical Response teams, Underwater Dive teams, a mobile command post, various all terrain vehicles, boats and trucks. The Illinois Department of Transportation contributed 500 yards of fencing and 500 stakes on two lowboys pulled by two semis that will be in the law enforcement convoy.
- This week, the Governor dispatched 52 members of the Illinois Medical Emergency Response Teams (IMERT) to Louisiana to assist with care of the massive number of sick and injured victims from Hurricane Katrina.
- On Friday, the Governor dispatched an 11-member Incident Management Team to George County, Mississippi for 14 days to assist local emergency managers during the crisis.
- On Wednesday, the Governor directed the Illinois National Guard to send more than 300 soldiers and fifty military vehicles to assist in Hurricane Katrina cleanup efforts. The soldiers assembled in Springfield and left for Louisiana this morning.
- The Governor ordered the state’s 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. To date, the Illinois State Board of Education has received requests from some 30 students that will be placed in school districts in Belleville, Peoria, Wheaton, Metro East, South Cook (Lansing) and Whiteside County.
- The state’s public universities have also responded to the Governor’s call to provide accommodations for college students displaced by the hurricane. The state’s 39 community colleges will accommodate any Illinois resident displaced from higher education studies because of the hurricane, while Illinois’ 12 public universities will also take in students affected by the destruction along the Gulf Coast. Students are encouraged to contact admissions offices at each university to being an expedited process to enroll in the institution and to access university services like financial aid.
- The Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency are offering free camping and have removed length of stay requirements for Hurricane victims at all state parks and historic sites that offer camping.
- The Illinois Department of Transportation has waived certain transportation rules to allow standard-sized semis carrying supplies and materials to Louisiana to be overweight by up to 15,000 pounds when they travel on Illinois roads. Currently, a standard-sized semi is only allowed to weigh 80,000 pounds when traveling through Illinois. IDOT will also grant emergency permits to companies that need to move oversized equipment to the impacted area.
- The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is making available various items through IEMA’s emergency procurement system including 256,000 half pints of water, 8,500 blankets, 18,300 clothing items, and 2,900 dozen packages of cleaning supplies.
- The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) is assisting its counterparts in Louisiana and Mississippi with taking Disaster Unemployment Assistance claims and regular claims. IDES is also providing IEMA with timely information on Illinoisans who have the job skills required for civil engineering, health and safety engineering and other areas of expertise that are greatly needed during this time of emergency. In coordination with the affected areas, IDES is also instructing its local offices to help evacuees receive Disaster Unemployment Assistance. IDES is already helping nearly 700 Illinois unemployment claimants living in the affected areas. IDES has set up a toll-free number (888-337-7234) to provide information on claims. Illinois claimants residing in Mississippi can also call the IDES Harvey office at 708-596-2325, while claimants residing in Louisiana and Alabama can call the Moline office at 309-764-8731.
- The Department of Central Management Services has made available its Bureau of Communication and Computer Services (BCCS) to help provide communications assistance to devastated areas. Using broadband services, including high speed data transmission to remote areas underserved by local carriers, BCCS can provide relief command centers with uplinks for phone and internet access, and also links to shelters so displaced individuals can call loved ones.
- The Department of Human Services is sending staff skilled in processing Food Stamps, to help the United States Department of Agriculture implement a Disaster Food Stamp program in 25 Louisiana counties.
- The Illinois Department of Agriculture has made available to the Illinois State Police the Expo Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds as a staging area to consolidate personnel, equipment and supplies in preparation for deployment. The building could be used for several days, providing a secure, easily accessible location for supplies and vehicles of all sizes.
- The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Public Health are contributing twelve specialists that are leaving for Louisiana today. The specialists are members of four environmental health strike teams being sent by the state at the request of the Louisiana Emergency Management Agency. Their expertise includes drinking water, sewage, food safety and food salvage. In addition, two IEPA trucks stocked with emergency response equipment and two IPDH vehicles are being deployed.
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. SEOC is in continual contact with the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) officials in the affected states to coordinate requests for assistance with assets Illinois can offer.