Response to Hurricane Katrina—local, state levels

In response to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s pledge for Illinois to accept up to 10,000 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina, Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey, along with representatives from area law enforcement and medical agencies, gathered to prepare to receive up to 200 evacuees Sept 6.

Coordinated by Rock River Chapter of the American Red Cross, officials from Winnebago County Health Department, Emergency Services Disaster Agency, Mayor’s office, Rockford police and fire departments, city and state departments of Human Services, Greater Rockford Airport Authority, area hospitals, Salvation Army, and representatives from other social service organizations convened to quickly plan for Rockford’s response to the emergency.

According to the Illinois Emergency Operations Center, the City of Rockford will receive approximately 200 evacuees. The State has agreed to provide interim public health, housing and humanitarian aid until federal disaster relief can reimburse the State. Morrissey said the local relief efforts would be coordinated mainly through the City of Rockford Human Services Department, which will be the lead agency for administering and distributing state relief funds.

Toll-free number for disaster relief

Donations can be made to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund by calling 800-HELP-NOW or 800-257-7575 (Spanish), or through a secure Internet site at The State also has a toll-free number to assist displaced people who come to Illinois. The number, 1-800-843-6154, will stay in service as long as needed.

Saturday, Sept. 3, 134 highly trained law enforcement officers from state and local agencies were deployed to Louisiana. 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, Blagojevich 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. An 11-member Incident Management Team was sent to George County, Miss., for 14 days to assist local emergency managers there.

Aug. 31, the Blagojevich directed the Illinois National Guard to send more than 300 soldiers and 50 military vehicles to assist in Hurricane Katrina cleanup efforts. He also 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.

The state’s public universities have responded to the Governor’s call to provide accommodations for college students displaced by the hurricane. The state’s 39 community colleges and 12 public universities will take in students affected by the Gulf Coast disaster. 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.

IDOT requirements waived

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 traveling on Illinois roads. IDOT will also grant emergency permits to companies that need to move oversized equipment to the impacted area.

The Illinois Department of Corrections 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 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.

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.

The Department of Human Services is sending staff skilled in processing Food Stamps, to help the U.S. 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 Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Public Health are contributing 12 specialists who are being sent at the request of the Louisiana Emergency Management Agency. Their expertise includes drinking water, sewage, food safety and food salvage.

From the Sept. 7-13, 2005, issue

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