In uncertain times, Chicago remains as safe and prepared as it can be, Mayor Richard M. Daley said today.
“The attacks of September 11, 2001, changed forever the way Americans think about their safety. Since that day, which we always remember with special clarity around this time, our personal security and our nation’s security became more connected than ever before,” the Mayor said in a news conference held at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) headquarters, 1411 W. Madison St.
“Since 9-11, we have worked even harder than before to carry out our fundamental responsibility to keep Chicago secure and to be fully prepared to manage emergency situations,” he said.
He was joined at the news conference by the heads of City departments involved in safety and preparedness issues.
The Mayor also unveiled a new pilot program that will allow the City to move into the next generation of efficiency in emergency response.
Thanks to a $340,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security, OEMC has been able to test new technology that gives us the ability to answer next generation 911 calls – text messages and multimedia messaging pictures.
The program is up and running, but it doesn’t yet allow residents to send a text or a picture directly. First, they must call 911, which will send them an electronic message to reply to.
“But this advancement still provides police and fire with additional information to help them better respond to emergency situations,” Daley said.
Police Superintendent Jody Weis and Fire Commission Robert Hoff described new equipment on display that underscores the City’s commitment to provide law enforcement and emergency personnel with state-of-the-art technology to keep Chicago safe.
The Fire Department has acquired a new heavy rescue truck outfitted with a variety of air driven tools such as jack hammers to break thru concrete or streets, air knives to clear dirt in trench rescues and air bags that can be used to lift heavy objects and shore up trenches or tunnels.
The Police Department’s new “Mine Resistant-Ambush Protected” (MRAP) vehicle is a piece of excess Defense Department equipment that was transferred to the City, which used federal funds to modify and outfit it. So no city money was used in acquiring this important tool.
MRAP will be used by the SWAT Team and is one of two response vehicles deployed in emergency situations
In addition, the Police Department Marine Unit has recently acquired three new Marine Unit boats through the $2.8 million federal grant. This updates the City’s fleet of boats and will equip them with the latest technology.
And the Police Department received about $1.7 million worth of SWAT training and equipment through a separate grant. The equipment includes items such as vests, ballistic blankets and shields, a high tech camera and ballistic helmets with night vision equipment.
Daley thanked the federal government for its support, which in recent times has helped Chicago:
- Become a world leader in installing security and safety cameras -- both as a deterrent to terrorism and to address the challenge of gangs, guns and drugs.
- Invest in the newest security and safety enhancements at our airports, and
- Integrate its camera network into 911 operations, which greatly enhances Chicago’s Homeland Security strategy and ability to fight crime.
He also thanked U.S. Senator Dick Durbin for his work to help the City secure a grant of $1 million through the federal Emergency Operations Center Program that will help pay for important improvements to the OEMC Center.
The Mayor said that since September 11, 2001, Chicago’s broad strategy has been to bring all city resources together to keep the people of the city and region safe.
“Every day, we look for ways to make every neighborhood safer and our city more secure. Through a combination of technology and the hard work and dedication of police officers, firefighters and paramedics and the workers at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, our city will remain as safe and prepared as any big city can be,” he said.
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