Purdue leading catastrophe planning for Chicago area, NW Indiana

August 4, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University has been selected to develop a planning guide for regional centers being created to provide critical services during catastrophes such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks in Chicago and surrounding counties in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

The Purdue Homeland Security Institute at the university's Discovery Park has been awarded $1.5 million for the work. It is part of a project funded by a grant of up to $6 million from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program.

The Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications selected teams from Purdue and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Purdue will create a planning guide for Regional Hub Reception Centers that will serve the Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin Combined Statistical Area, which encompasses 10 Illinois counties, the City of Chicago, five Indiana counties and one Wisconsin county.

"We are making sure that plans are in place in each county and that those plans work seamlessly with one another for the public good," said J. Eric Dietz, director of the Purdue Homeland Security Institute.

The regional centers will be activated to care for and shelter large influxes of people injured and displaced by a catastrophic event.

"The plans will be very health-care focused," Dietz said. "The project will involve logistics, administration, command and control, everything."

The centers will provide "essential support services," including intake and registration of victims and displaced residents, decontamination, first aid and medical screening, temporary shelter, communications, and care for pets.

"We will facilitate putting this plan together, conduct data mining with counties and identify their unique needs," said Cliff Wojtalewicz, managing director of the institute. "Then we will begin customizing these plans while incorporating their guidance. After one year the first phase will be completed, and there might be subsequent years with follow-on preparedness plans. This project also provides an excellent opportunity for our students to interact with government and industry in the Chicago area, working on issues that require interdisciplinary solutions, which is exactly what Discovery Park is all about. "

In Illinois, the area covers Chicago, Cook County, DeKalb County, DuPage County, Grundy County, Kane County, Kankakee County, Kendall County, Lake County, McHenry County and Will County. Indiana counties are Lake, Jasper, LaPorte, Newton and Porter. The Wisconsin county is Kenosha.

The planning guide will enable individual centers to develop operational plans, procedures and other documents.

Several faculty and staff experts from Purdue will be involved in the project and will include officials from Purdue's Healthcare Technical Assistance Program, created in 2005 to improve health-care quality, safety and efficiency by applying the principles of engineering, management and science.

"We're able to bring together specialists at Purdue with practitioners in the field - the people on the ground working with the county emergency management agencies," said Dietz, who was founding executive director for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security where Wojtalewicz was deputy director. "The Purdue Homeland Security Institute was primarily chosen because we bring along a lot of real-world practical expertise, but we are also pleased to have Tetra Tech Inc. supporting us on this project. They bring disaster management and preparedness services nationwide and will bring national best practices to this project."

Writer:  Emil Venere, 765-494-4709, venere@purdue.edu

Sources:   J. Eric Dietz, 765-494-8130, jedietz@purdue.edu

                    Clifford Wojtalewicz, 765-496-3961, cliffw@purdue.edu