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Emergency Preparedness: Get a Glimpse Inside Tinley's 'Bunker'

The village's nationally accredited Emergency Management Agency is one of slightly more than a dozen in the northern half of Illinois. Do you know what happens there?

Day or night, Pat Carr is ready for a local disaster.

"… It doesn't bother me to crawl out of bed to come here in the middle of the night if I know that what I'm doing could potentially ensure our residents stay safe during an emergency," he said Thursday.

As the 's director of emergency management, it's his job to coordinate efforts by state, local and county officials, who in a crisis, report to a basement-level headquarters in the . The center is one of only 14 fully accredited in the northern half of Illinois and protocol there is the same as that of the City of Chicago, Carr said.

It's is stocked with every gadget you can think of—both new and old. There are Ham radios, giant wall maps and mortuary boards, as well as real-time Doppler Radar feeds and back-up power generators. And the area will soon get a facelift. The village was recently awarded a $70,000 Department of Homeland Security grant that will be used to revamp the place.

Right now, 25 crimson placards dangle from the ceiling designating stations for the village manager, mayor, public works director, state and county officials and others.

It's that group that's trained to follow the National Incident Management System—a template for communities' emergency responses that's guided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to the NIMS website.

Those on the village's EMA roster are required to report to the operations center if notified by Carr of an emergency, such as the latest winter blizzard that left cars buried, roads covered and people stranded all over the Midwest.

"It's my job to coordinate all functions and public officials together and to prepare, respond and recover after an incident," Carr said.

In the spring season—and especially recently—he heads to the center any time there is a serious weather threat. He closely monitors storm patterns through radar and is in constant contact with the National Weather Service.

"I feel like I can sometimes make 50 phone calls in a 15-minute time period," he said, of monitoring storms.

He's also the one behind emergency alert texts sent to residents if a threat is likely for Tinley. But he doesn't simply send them based on national storm information.

Trained weather spotters are dispatched to key points throughout the community to observe conditions, meteorologists are contacted, Doppler is monitored and officials in neighboring communities are phoned.

"Everything we do has a dual purpose because for one, we need to know how our area is being affected," Carr said. "But if our guys see hail, we report that back to the NWS."

Making the call to send a mass text, e-mail, cable access, village website or automated voicemail alert is one he takes seriously.

"We don't want to bombard people with messages and make them complacent," he said. "When we send it out, we send it because we believe we have reliable information that our area will be impacted."

Although weather threats have been the most recent occupier of his time, they're not the sole purpose of the command center—or as Carr calls it, "the bunker."

A NIMS binder detailing procedures for flooding, terrorist attacks, medical or health crises, and more is on hand there for reference. But those on the local EMA team are all specially trained in how to respond to such incidents.

"We're aggressive in trying to get the word out with the resources we have," Carr said. "I feel we do a good job of that."

Russ June 05, 2011 at 04:11 AM
thanks for the glimpse Carrie.Sometimes people like Mr. carr are taken for granted .It's nice to know someone is paying close attention to potential disasters for our protection
Deb Melchert June 05, 2011 at 01:40 PM
Well put Russ. For anyone who finds the "bunker" interesting, you might want to consider joining the CERT team in town. CERT, Community Emergency Response Team, classes are available in Tinley and they're always looking for new members. Please don't think it's hours and hours of training. You'll be taught the very basics of first aid, fire suppression, search and rescue and emergency preparedness. As an extension of EMA, CERT teams could be called out to assist in an emergency, but with the resources of FEMA and our local EMA crews, it would have to be pretty disastrous event for the village to call in CERT. The entire training is only about 20 hours to be certified.
Deb Melchert June 05, 2011 at 01:41 PM
Carrie, maybe Steve Carr or one of the CERT instructors can explain it better than I can. I think it would make a great article to let folks know that they can sign up to help in the event of a disaster.
Carrie Frillman June 06, 2011 at 03:03 AM
That's a great idea, Deb! Thanks for throwing it out there. I will look into it.
Cynthia Barr June 07, 2011 at 03:31 PM
Better to be prepared than not! I think it's a great idea and bringing in CERT is even better. Didn't know they even had CERT in the area! Great bit of info to have. Thanks Deb Cynthia Barr
David Shwatal April 23, 2013 at 09:56 PM
Thank you for that, Deb. Great idea.

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