The Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) works for the more than five million residents of the second largest county in the United States. Cook County is vulnerable to many hazards from extreme weather to terrorist attacks. We have a fundamental responsibility to do all we can to ensure the safety of our community.
Under the leadership of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the DHSEM has laid a foundation for a department that emphasizes partnerships and preparedness, paying attention to the old threats we face while looking forward to anticipate new ones.
We have built partnerships with our counterparts at the local, state and federal level. We have engaged the County’s 134 municipalities to help them identify their security needs and assist in filling those needs.
The department developed the Cook County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan – the largest plan of its kind according to FEMA – adopted by 115 of the County’s municipalities. These municipalities now have access to critical federal grant funds to help protect their communities against natural threats.
We partnered with the City of Chicago and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to launch the “If You See Something, Say Something”™ anti-terrorism campaign for our urban area. We are committed to helping the public identify potential threats – our residents are our partners in the fight against terrorism.
Last summer, the DHSEM unveiled its state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The EOC gives our department the ability to serve as a command and control facility for an emergency of any scale and scope in Cook County and also the region.
The DHSEM has acquired the kind of assets that local municipalities routinely ask for to help their first responders during incidents and events. This equipment and the DHSEM’s personnel now deploy almost daily. The department’s generators have powered assisted living facilities during outages to allow residents to shelter in place. Our personnel have assisted with search and rescue operations by land and air. Our water pumps have kept flood waters from knocking out power to entire swaths of Cook County.
In just the last year the department facilitated more than 400 trainings, exercises and seminars for over 10,000 first responders from around the County. The DHSEM conducted table top exercises for scenarios that ranged from a severe winter snowstorms to targeted attacks against a house of worship. We partnered with utilities, municipalities and private sector organizations serving as the host for statewide exercises at our Emergency Operations Center. Members of law enforcement and fire services received hands-on training to continue to hone their skills.
This department has assessed the grave cyber risks we face as a County and has invested significant federal grant funds to make our cyber infrastructure more secure.
This work shows the DHSEM’s dedication and commitment to our mission to prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to and recover from all incidents. While the team is proud of the work that has been accomplished, we all know that there is plenty more to be done.
As we move ahead, the DHSEM is looking forward to expanding our partnerships in both the public and private sectors. We continue to emphasize community outreach to ensure that our residents have the knowledge and tools they need before, during and after an incident. We will continue to provide meaningful training opportunities to our first responders and enhance our cybersecurity posture. We are proud to help support the municipalities and residents of Cook County and look forward to continuing our work for a safer, more secure community.