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Chicago Wed Apr 15 2009

Do You Have an Evacuation Plan?

The following op-ed is by Tammy Terwelp, traffic director at Chicago Public Radio and a graduate student studying geography at Northeastern Illinois University. Lately she's been wondering how Chicago would handle an emergency evacuation. Take her survey and let her know what you think.

If 9/11 or worse happened in the City of Chicago, what do our leaders have planned to help citizens evacuate and where can I get that information? If you are like most Chicagoans, you don't have a clue. Being a grad student at NEIU gives a person a great excuse to try and unearth some answers. My spring semester research paper is on our city's plan and why it doesn't seem to be accessible. The policy appears to be "You'll know when you need to know." I don't know about you, but given our city and state's reputation, I am not so confident in trusting officials with my life. There is a public document [PDF] outlining some response tactics for the Central Business District (CBD), which is a good start. I understand it better than I did when I first read it a few months ago because I have been neck deep in acronyms of city and county departments, learning what they do. They seem to have a workable plan for disseminating instructions in an emergency -- but what are those instructions so they can be in my head before the freak out happens? And what about us schlepps outside of the CBD but still in the city?

Philadelphia has a lot of information available online. Maps, instructions and routes are all viewable. Yes, they do have a "private" plan for officials only, but the public plan at least allows people to have an idea of what to do and where to go and a chance to convey that to their families. Even Cleveland has a brochure [PDF] that outlines the obvious questions with more relevance than Chicago's version.

There may be more detailed Chicago information out there that I can't seem to find, but if I can't find it in two months of researching, how are you going to find it to potentially save your life? I certainly don't know how to get everyone out of here, but do you believe anyone has an idea? Take my survey -- maybe I am wrong in assuming Chicagoans are in the dark. I certainly hope I am.

Tammy Terwelp

 

RAStewart / April 27, 2009 1:00 PM

Unfortunately, I think you're right. I'm certainly in the dark.

I moved to Chicago in the early seventies, following an experience that peculiarly fitted me to understand City Hall: six weeks living in the Soviet Union after college. As I began to learn my way around Chicago, the incompetence, the bureaucracy, the supreme indifference, the ingrained corruption, the way the goverment was much more ready to harass than help--and most relevant to this discussion, the insane passion for secrecy--all were familiar.

I worked in city government for a while, and I came to realize that we actually have some very able and dedicated people working on our behalf. The Fire Department, for example, has impressive plans for rescue and evacuation of large buildings, and from what I've seen their firefighters are thoroughly trained. In the event of a large-scale disaster, I think we are likely to see an impressive response from the pros. But we will still see much unnecessary loss of life, because City Hall would rather risk that than share information with its citizens.

Think Chernobyl.

RAStewart / April 27, 2009 1:00 PM

Unfortunately, I think you're right. I'm certainly in the dark.

I moved to Chicago in the early seventies, following an experience that peculiarly fitted me to understand City Hall: six weeks living in the Soviet Union after college. As I began to learn my way around Chicago, the incompetence, the bureaucracy, the supreme indifference, the ingrained corruption, the way the goverment was much more ready to harass than help--and most relevant to this discussion, the insane passion for secrecy--all were familiar.

I worked in city government for a while, and I came to realize that we actually have some very able and dedicated people working on our behalf. The Fire Department, for example, has impressive plans for rescue and evacuation of large buildings, and from what I've seen their firefighters are thoroughly trained. In the event of a large-scale disaster, I think we are likely to see an impressive response from the pros. But we may still see much unnecessary loss of life, because City Hall would rather risk that than share information with its citizens.

Think Chernobyl.

Sean / December 21, 2009 1:48 AM

I am currently researching Chicago evacuation planning and welcome any related input
or comments.

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