SPRINGFIELD – With their mission complete, the last of nearly 200 Illinois responders Governor Rod R. Blagojevich deployed to assist Louisiana following Hurricane Gustav are on their way home. For their efforts, the Governor today expressed his gratitude to the firefighters, Illinois National Guard troops, law enforcement officers and emergency managers who went to the Gulf Coast to help Louisiana recover from the hurricane that struck in late August.
“I deeply appreciate the enthusiasm and dedication of these fine responders who traveled more than 700 miles from home to help their fellow Americans cope with a major disaster,” said Governor Blagojevich. “We are very fortunate in Illinois to have a strong response community that can answer the call for help, whether it be close to home or far away.”
Responders returning today include 28 firefighters and a six-member Incident Management Team. Twenty firefighters and 11 National Guard troops returned to the state on Monday, and other Illinois responders have returned to the state over the past few weeks.
“Naturally, it feels good to have helped others,” said Illinois Air Natural Guard Tech. Sgt. Mickey Hendricks of Peoria, a satellite communications expert with the IL National Guards 264th Communications Squadron. “I think the whole unit is like that. We want to help and are ready to jump in when needed. We are all in this together.”
Soon after Hurricane Gustav made landfall, Governor Blagojevich directed the deployment of response personnel requested by the state of Louisiana, including:
- Three Illinois National Guard helicopters and their crews, which assisted with search and rescue missions, air movement of critical supplies, evacuation missions and sand-bagging of levee breaches.
- 150 firefighters, fire trucks and fire-fighting equipment.
- 11 Illinois Air National Guard airmen and a satellite communications system.
- An Incident Management Team, which assisted with planning, logistics and accountability for out-of-state assets deployed to the affected areas of Louisiana.
Illinois’ assistance was requested by the State of Louisiana through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a mutual aid agreement, signed by all 50 states, that facilitates states assisting other states during emergencies.
“We welcome the opportunity to help states like Louisiana during their time of need and are happy that we have a large cadre of resources that can be deployed,” said Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Andrew Velasquez III. “Every time Illinois sends response personnel to a major disaster, such as hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, they bring home hands-on experience that enhances our abilities to respond to a major disaster in our own state.”
Velasquez said Illinois hasn’t received any requests for assistance from Texas for Hurricane Ike recovery efforts, but the state is maintaining a readiness posture and is prepared to respond quickly if help is needed.
In 2005, Governor Blagojevich directed the deployment of more than 2,500 Illinois responders to the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, including nearly 1,000 firefighters, paramedics and essential fire support equipment; more than 1,100 Illinois National Guard troops; more than 300 local, county and state law enforcement officers, a 50-member Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team; more than 30 local and state emergency managers; and more than 100 state employees and vital telecommunications equipment.