IEMA: The command center for disaster response in Illinois

By Mark Bullion

March 14, 2013 Updated Mar 14, 2013 at 9:55 PM CDT

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Natural disasters like tornadoes, flooding, blizzards, and other severe weather situations can wreak havoc on communities. They can cause millions of dollars in damage and unfortunately sometimes take lives.

However, there is one Illinois agency that is constantly monitoring weather situations and is prepared to spring into action when disaster strikes.

It is the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, the command center for any disaster that may happen statewide. It houses dozens of state and federal agencies, ready to respond to any disaster, and when that disaster strikes, there's no time to panic, it's time to mobilize.

"It's having these dedicated liaisons from each of these organizations or agencies and do some extensive training to make sure they are familiar with the systems, the procedures, the things we need to do to administer that disaster response," said Jonathon Monken, IEMA Director.

A good example is the tornado that hit Harrisburg, Illinois last February.

"If we know conditions are ideal for tornadic activity, then we can start to ramp things up a little bit, so we'll notify the liaisons that an activation of this facility may be necessary to try and get people ready to go because ultimately the recall time for all of our liaisons is one hour," said Monken.

That can mean the difference between life and death.

"We respond immediately so we can call on resources from the Illinois Department of Transportation to clear roadways, we can call on the Illinois State Police to provide road blocks for people to evacuate and try to get out, we coordinate with fire services to get rescue teams in as soon as possible to try and save as many injured folks as you can.

With the help of the agency; along with local, state, and federal officials, communities can get back on track and back to normalcy.

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