Syverson: Lawmakers briefed about bioterrorism preparedness
SPRINGFIELDIllinois top public health official told lawmakers May 15 that Illinois is well ahead of many other states in implementing plans to respond to bioterrorism or chemical attacks, according to State Sen. Dave Svverson (R-Rockford).
As chairman of the Senate Public Health Committee, Syverson convened a meeting May 15 to hear from Dr. John Lumpkin, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, about the states readiness in the event of a bioterrorism or chemical attack.
The changes in the world since Sept. 11 have been dramatic. Just nine months ago, who would have thought that the Pentagon and the World Trade Center would have been attacked, or that bioterrorisim would be a reality instead of a distant threat, Syverson said. Although we hope Illinois public health officials never have to use these plans to react to a bioterrorisim or chemical attack, it makes sense to know what to do in the event of such an emergency.
The 34th District Senator says Illinois is out in front of many other states because it already had a strong network of emergency response programs in place before Sept. 11. More plans have been developed since then as specific needs have been determined.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency coordinates and trains local emergency and disaster teams for large-scale emergencies. In May 2000, the Illinois Terrorism Task Force was developed to identify strengths and weaknesses in the states response plans for terrorist attacks, Syverson said. Little did we know then how well served we would be by having these plans in place. Director Lumpkin says we are substantially ahead of many other states in planning and implementing emergency response strategies.
Lumpkin told the Senate Public Health Committee that Illinois has received $42 million from the federal government to support and enhance local and state public health systems. The money will be used to help hospitals, local public health department, and state laboratories around Illinois improve their emergency response systems. It will also update the training of local public health officials and enhance the communications network used to notify local communities about health emergencies. Lumpkin said even if the emergency response measures are never used, the resulting improvements to the overall public health system will serve the state well in matters of tracking and responding to outbreaks of infectious disease and other health concerns.
The tragic events of Sept. 11 have unfortunately made us all too aware of how vulnerable we are to unexpected events and emergencies, whether they are manmade or natural disasters, Syverson said. Being prepared helps us all respond more effectively and efficiently.