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COUNTY CONNECTIONS: Emergency management in Cook County

Nov 01, 2019 06:38AM ● By Editor

By Mike Keyport, Cook County Emergency Management Director - November 1, 2019

As most residents can attest, summer in Cook County is a glorious time, albeit a short one. As winter threatens and we pull docks, insulate our water lines and don our winter gear, it’s a good time to refresh our cold weather skills and ensure that we are prepared for winter’s challenges.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety division of Homeland Security and Management (DPS-HSEM) and the National Weather Service assist with this task by sponsoring Winter Hazard Awareness Week each fall.

The Minnesota campaign runs from November 4 through 8 and offers daily tips to assist families and businesses in preparing for -and surviving – winter. This year’s topics include winter storms, outdoor winter safety, winter fire safety, indoor winter safety and winter driving. The daily fact sheets can be accessed on the DPS website at

Emergency Management in Cook County

As the emergency management director, my role is to protect lives, property and environment from natural and/or man-made disasters through preparation, mitigation, response and recovery. This includes promoting and protecting public safety, health and welfare during large-scale emergencies or disasters.

These four phases, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery, are a continuous cycle. During non-emergency/disaster periods I work on preparedness and mitigation. During emergency/disaster periods I work on response and recovery. I do this by asking the following questions:

Mitigation: What activities can help avoid a disaster or minimize its impact? Examples include building dams, adopting wind resistant construction methods, and building new warning systems.

Preparedness: What activities can enhance the abilities of individuals, communities and businesses to respond to a disaster? Examples include creating disaster plans (for the home, workplace and community) and conducting disaster drills.

Response: What actions can be taken during and immediately after a disaster to prevent loss of life and property? Examples include setting up shelters and coordinating public utilities’ responses during an emergency event.

Recovery: What efforts can help to return the community back to normal following a disaster? Efforts include removing debris, rebuilding roads, returning people to their homes, etc.

Not surprisingly, preparedness work comprises the bulk of my duties, as I am responsible for maintaining and updating the following:

• Cook County Emergency Operations Plan. The Emergency Operations Plan provides an outlined response to an emergency or disaster in order to protect the health and safety of the public, preserve property and environment, ensure essential service, and provide continuity of the community function.

• Cook County Multi- Hazard Mitigation Plan. This plan provides a comprehensive risk assessment, vulnerability analysis, mitigation strategies, and implementation schedule for the county and hazard mitigation plan partners. This plan analyzes both natural and man-made hazards, including acts of terrorism.

• Cook County Community Wildfire Protection Plan. The Wildfire Protection Plan identifies and prioritizes wildland/urban interface areas within Cook County (including federal and non-federal lands) for hazardous fuels reduction treatments and recommends methods for achieving hazardous fuels reduction. The plan also outlines measures for reducing fire danger to structures throughout Cook County at-risk communities.

Additionally, I am responsible for Cook County’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). This encompasses all components of emergency management for the community. This means coordinating resources from all sectors before, during and after an emergency, including during the response phase.

The response phase, of course, is the most challenging phase of emergency management. During this phase I coordinate emergency response efforts by insuring that all plans in place, like those outlined above, are implemented as required.

Regardless of the length of an emergency event, the response phase is often intense and exhausting for everyone from emergency service providers to law enforcement personnel and community volunteers. While I do not direct incident command, I do work closely with all individuals involved to ensure successful emergency preparedness and response. Emergency management, like so many county ventures, really is a collaborative venture.

Learn more about Cook County’s emergency management division online at _

County Connections is a column on timely topics and service informationfrom your Cook County government. Cook County – _ SupportingCommunity Through Quality Public Service.

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