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Chicago Wed Apr 15 2009
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