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updated: 10/3/2012 2:16 PM

DuPage County's emergency HQ passes first test

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  • David Gervino, emergency management coordinator for DuPage County's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, talks about radio capabilities of the new emergency operations center. In the radio room, county officials can communicate with police and fire departments throughout the state to coordinate the response to big emergencies.

       David Gervino, emergency management coordinator for DuPage County's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, talks about radio capabilities of the new emergency operations center. In the radio room, county officials can communicate with police and fire departments throughout the state to coordinate the response to big emergencies.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

 
 

It didn't take long for the new headquarters of DuPage County's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to be put to the test.

The roughly $1.5 million facility in Wheaton had been up and running just a couple months when a powerful July 1 storm left more than half the county without power.

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For five days, county officials and ComEd representatives worked together at the emergency operations center to respond to the outage and ensure that critical care facilities, including Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, were made a priority in getting power restored.

On Tuesday, officials celebrated that successful collaboration during the center's grand opening ceremony.

"This state-of-the-art facility provides our staff with the cutting-edge technology to properly coordinate countywide response and recovery efforts from natural or man-made disasters," county board Chairman Dan Cronin said.

Before converting about 10,000 square feet at the county's former youth home, the OEM department was housed in another building commonly referred to as the "bunker." Originally commissioned during the Cold War, the bunker was need of major repair when the county board decided to move the OEM department to its existing location.

"It allows us to do so many things that we physically couldn't do just because of the constraints of where we were," said OEM Director Norm Sturm, adding that the move was done in late May.

The county contributed about $330,000 to create the new location. Federal grant money paid for the rest of the renovation project.

In addition to having the technology needed to coordinate countywide emergency efforts, the facility has several classrooms and conference rooms.

Officials say that extra space is used when the OEM department hosts training sessions and meets with various agencies to prepare for preplanned events, such as the Ryder Cup.

"Ninety-five percent of what we do is before the emergency," Sturm said. "We can't prevent a tornado from coming though. But what we want to do is to make sure that communities are prepared to take of themselves and their neighbors."

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