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Ref: Chicago says emergency preparedness drills increase response capability


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Officials: City Prepared For Emergency

Fourteen Recommendations Made For Improvement

POSTED: 7:20 pm CDT May 23, 2007
UPDATED: 7:52 pm CDT May 23, 2007
CHICAGO -- New details released on Wednesday revealed just how well prepared Chicago might be for an emergency.

Video: Drill Report

In January, a federal report ranked Chicago ranked Chicago low among cities for disaster preparedness, but the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications said a staged evacuation of more than 3,000 people from four buildings last September went well.
"The results of the exercise were positive," said Cortez Trotter, the city's chief emergency officer. "It was a good report."
Trotter said Chicago was the first city to hold a massive emergency drill. Officials said there were plans for an even larger drill in the near future.
Officials, though, came up with at least 14 recommendations, NBC5's Lauren Jiggetts reported. Among the areas that needed work was ensuring that emergency notification reaches intended recipients and increased training for building personnel as initial responders. Officials also said workers should keep "go packs" at their desk with items like a flashlight, toothbrush and walking shoes. Officials also said there should be straightforward directions for evacuees.
"People wanted to hear us say, 'When you reach ground level, go toward an identifiable landmark,'" Trotter said. "They didn't want us to use, 'Go west, go east.'"
During the exercise, some emergency notification calls to building security or management went unanswered. The Building Owners and Management Association of Chicago said a new notification system was the answer. The "Send Word Now" system is scheduled to be fully functional in about a month. The service notifies building personnel of emergencies through e-mail, telephones and text messages.
"'Send Word Now' is a Web-based system that can send messages to almost any kind of device," said Ronald Vukas, executive vice president of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago.
Sirens also overwhelmed public address systems, Jiggetts reported, and evacuees wanted more direction. Trotter said a DVD would help.
"People wanted to know once we evacuate a building and we get to ground level, what can we expect?," Trotter said. "It was a fair question, and I think this DVD, as well as the other things that happened today, is the answer to that."
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