COD, Tetra Tech Inc. Host Functional Exercise as Part of RCPT Federal Grant

In 2013, College of DuPage in association with Tetra Tech Inc. was awarded a $750,000 grant from the City of Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications in support of the Regional Catastrophic Training and Exercise Program. The COD grant is the last award given as part of a much larger effort by the Regional Catastrophic Planning Team (RCPT) carried out since 2007.

At that time, the College’s Combined Statistical Region (Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin) was designated as one of ten areas around the United States to receive federal funding for a massive Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program. Since then, College of DuPage has worked on six specific areas in fulfillment of its goal to exercise and train first responders and other agencies on the implementation of regional disaster plans. 

Most recently, a functional exercise, “Operation Sudden Impact,” was developed by COD, Tetra Tech Inc. and other project partners to demonstrate how a Regional Hub Reception Center (RHRC) would be established to assist evacuation of residents away from a disaster area and their movement into shelters. The exercise was held at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind., and Dr. James Hagen was selected to serve as Project Manager based upon his vast experience with global emergency planning initiatives. The scenario chosen for the exercise was massive destruction in Will County, Ill., by a line of EF-1 to EF-4 tornadoes that caused mass casualties and made much of the area uninhabitable. 

A RHRC was set up, where evacuees were transported, tracked and then moved to shelters. Specific areas to be tested included multi-agency coordination and communication, tracking of people and resources, assignment to regional shelters and use of the Regional Animal Service Plan and Private Sector Integration Plan.

“College of DuPage seeks to connect public and private sector institutions and to train professionals and volunteer first-responders for the benefit of the region and beyond,” said College of DuPage Dean of Continuing Education/Extended Learning Joe Cassidy. “This most recent exercise and the overall purpose of the larger grant fit perfectly with the mission of COD’s Homeland Security Training Institute (HSTI) of increasing regional public safety through the development and testing of emergency planning and training. This project brought together multiple government agencies, municipalities, the private sector and educational institutions to further regional planning and response capabilities.”

Last month’s functional exercise at Valparaiso included more than 50 participants from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Valparaiso University, the City of Valparaiso, Michigan City Animal Response Team, Porter County, the Indiana District Incident Management Team, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and United Way. In addition, there were more than 30 controllers and evaluators from College of DuPage, Tetra Tech Inc. and the region who served to control the exercise and evaluate all aspects of the actions taken, goals and objectives of the exercise.

The exercise was a great success as judged by both participants and controllers and evaluators. The exercise was also observed by a new evaluation team from College of DuPage who are involved in the grant and who will be carrying forward a plan for future exercises identified and designed by the College with Continuing Education and the College's HSTI.

According to Cassidy, the exercises will expand on ongoing initiatives undertaken by the College.

“We are continuously conducting multi-agency trainings and exercises  to support professionals in updating their skills and even changing how first-responders train going forward,” Cassidy said. “On April 23, College of DuPage’s Criminal Justice program, Health Science program and the Homeland Security Training Institute will be working with other external agencies to conduct a scenario that involves a house fire, a shooting victim and requires a coordinated law enforcement, fire department and healthcare response.”

Next on the agenda is the capstone event for the COD grant; the Full-Scale Evacuation Exercise. Still in the planning stages, this will be a broader-based scenario that requires real people and resources. It carries the Functional Exercise one step further by clearly demonstrating the ability to operationalize a regional plan, safely move people and pets, and to provide communication and coordination throughout the entire event.

The HSTI at College of DuPage provides comprehensive, high-quality education for law enforcement, fire science, first-responders and corporate security personnel in the area of homeland security. Through a series of courses developed from program models including law enforcement, disaster preparedness, counterterrorism, emergency response, NIM/NRF/ICS and private sector security, the HSTI continues to develop programs for both prospective employees and working professionals.

For more information, please contact Joe Cassidy at (630) 942-2316 or cassidyj1180@cod.edu.