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'Operation Safe Haven' Exercise: Public Safety Teamwork Bolsters Radiation Preparedness

Thu March 5, 2015

DuPage County partners conducted an emergency preparedness exercise on March 4 related to a simulated radiation event. "Operation Safe Haven" was a collaborative effort between the DuPage County Health Department, the DuPage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and first responder public safety agencies to identify, better prepare for, and bolster partnerships in the event of a radiation emergency. 

The exercise was part of a national effort initiated by the National Association of County and City Health Officials, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to help support communities in their radiation preparedness planning. 

DuPage County is one of only two communities nationally selected to participate in a radiation sheltering exercise with NACCHO. DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin stated, "It's an honor that our county was selected for this exercise and it demonstrates that DuPage County is recognized for the quality of our responder agencies and our ability to assist our residents in times of crisis." 

"The DuPage County Health Department welcomed the opportunity to host a radiation preparedness site visit," stated Karen Ayala, Executive Director of the DuPage County Health Department. "It was gratifying to be able to bring together so many agencies to ensure we are prepared to protect the health and safety of our community during all types of public health emergencies, including radiation catastrophes."  

The six hour table-top preparedness exercise included participation and representatives from  the following agencies and partners: DuPage County Health Department,  DuPage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, DuPage County Coroner's Office, DuPage County Sheriff's Office,  DuPage County Chiefs of Police Association, DuPage County Fire Chiefs Association, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Benedictine University, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and U.S. Department of Energy. 

Participating agencies had the chance to exercise existing emergency plans, build and develop new plans from lessons learned, and foster relationships for an effective all-hazards response. 

Preparedness exercises like "Operation Safe Haven" are critical to help anticipate challenges and coordinate the appropriate response efforts between local, county, state, and federal partners before an emergency occurs. A nuclear or radiological emergency could impact or displace millions of people, and potentially stress public health, emergency response, and health care systems, even in communities far from the site of the incident.