SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today added St. Clair and Edgar counties to a state disaster declaration, a move that will expedite state assistance needed to help Edgar County in southeastern Illinois recover from recent storms and flash flooding and St. Clair County battle flooding along the Mississippi River. The Governor also announced that the state’s public health director will be visiting public health departments in western Illinois Thursday to ensure medical and health needs are being met in counties affected by historic Mississippi River flooding.
“We are continuing to provide help to people battling flood waters along the Mississippi River and flood ravaged areas in other parts of the state,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We will work around the clock to ensure communities get the help they need during this critical time.”
The state disaster declaration makes available a wide variety of state resources that can help affected communities respond to and recover from storms or flooding.
“The State of Illinois has personnel and assets that we can mobilize to help communities respond to and recover from floods and other disasters, including such things as National Guard troops, sandbags, inmate crews to help fill sandbags, boats for evacuations and security patrols, heavy equipment and much more,” said Andrew Velasquez III, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA). “We already have dedicated more than 2,000 personnel, millions of sandbags and numerous pieces of equipment into the flood effort, and are prepared to provide whatever additional assistance is needed.”
At the direction of the Governor, Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold is visiting local health departments today in some of the flood impacted counties to make sure medical and health needs are being met. IDPH has been working with emergency medical services systems to make sure ambulances are available when needed, local health departments are providing tetanus vaccinations and hospitals can handle additional patients if needed.
“Some people in Illinois who typically travel to hospitals in Iowa for medical services may not be able to reach those facilities now because bridges and levees have broken and flood waters are cutting off access. But the Department has worked with hospitals and emergency medical services systems to make sure they have a mutual aid agreement so that an ambulance gets to you in a timely manner if you call 9-1-1 and that an area hospital will be open to you if you can’t get to the hospital you normally go to,” said Dr. Arnold. “Protecting and saving lives is Governor Blagojevich’s primary concern during this flood fight and we’re ensuring the medical community is on board.”
People unable to get to their usual hospital or medical facility should call that facility, which will direct them to the next nearest location that can provide those services. Not all hospitals or medical facilities provide the same services or provide the same specialties so it is best to contact your normal provider to find out where your needs can be met.
IDPH has coordinated ambulances to be located along the Mississippi River near sandbagging operations should emergency medical attention be needed. Residents can also expect that when they call 9-1-1, an ambulance will reach them in approximately the same amount of time as it would normally. Emergency Medical Services providers in some areas have pre-stationed ambulance to ensure response times are similar to what residents would be during non-emergent times.
Other IDPH efforts include putting into operation a network of faith-based ambassadors to reach out to community based organizations in the affected flood areas and pre-positioning larvaside in an effort to control the projected increase in the mosquito population
Earlier this week the Governor deployed an Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team (IMERT) made up of 25 medical professionals, including a doctor, nurses and paramedics, to Quincy to assist with any medical needs. This team of volunteers is providing medical support to those working on the front lines to protect levees and ensure residents’ safety. IMERT is renowned for its medical expertise and coordination after being deployed during Hurricane Katrina, when the team set up one of the largest field hospitals at the Louisiana State University Maravich Center.
The Governor can also call up an Illinois Nurse Volunteer Emergency Needs Team (INVENT), a volunteer group of Registered Nurses trained to provide nursing care during a state declared disaster or emergency situation. INVENT may be activated to enhance the current IMERT response, to staff field hospitals or assist local health departments with post-exposure follow-up.
To date the Governor has declared 21 counties disaster areas, including Adams, Calhoun, Clark, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Hancock, Henderson, Knox, Jasper, Jersey, Lake, Lawrence, Madison, Mercer, Pike, Rock Island and Winnebago.
For the latest information on flooding, shelters, what to do during and after a flood, log onto www.ready.illinois.gov