DHS Flood Response Demonstrates Culture of Caring

This was the view of the flood waters across the street from the Massac County office in Metropolis in April and May.Hero Tameling of the Office of Security Emergency and Preparedness (OSEP) stands in a sink hole caused by the flooding near the Alexander County DHS Family Community Resource Center in Cairo.

Planning ahead was the key to a successful response to the flooding in Southern Illinois. Our sincere appreciation goes out to all of the DHS staff who, in early February, began preparing for possible Spring flooding. The DHS Office of Security and Emergency Preparedness (OSEP) was ready when predictions of major flooding held true in the Southern part of the state in April. On April 25th the State's Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Springfield was activated to assist local communities in fighting the onslaught of water.

DHS/OSEP joined in and began working with Region V and Facility Administrators to identify vulnerable locations and potential staffing issues, and relocated its emergency response operations to the SEOC where the core agencies have instant access to each other and their resources.

On April 29th, when all 2600 Cairo residents were evacuated, DHS teamed with CMS and IDOC inmate work crews to relocate Alexander County/Cairo Family Community Resource Center (FCRC) computer servers and staff to higher ground in Pulaski County. All the files were secured at Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center in Anna. Over the next four days we also relocated the Pope/Golconda FCRC and Massac/Metropolis FCRC files and equipment to Anna, with operations and service delivery also taking place from the Union County FCRC there.

While accommodating DHS' internal needs, Choate MH-DC also played an expanded role in the flood response by hosting 17 mental health patients and 26 developmental disability patients from provider agencies located in the flood area. Additionally, we were able to provide lodging and secure equipment storage for 25 IDNR Conservation Police Officers with boats. This unit engaged in search and rescue, levee inspections and security operations.

To accommodate assistance inquiries from evacuated residents, DHS' HelpLine was modified to direct-refer flood victims to appropriate offices and caseworkers. OSEP and the American Red Cross and IDPH collaborated on shelter and healthcare needs, and prepared mass evacuation plans for the City of Metropolis and other locations.

Flood waters were lapping within several hundred feet of all the relocated FCRCs, but fortunately, none of the offices were damaged. After a tense week of watching the waters crest and fall, we were able to move files, equipment and operations back to all locations by April 17th.

Although the flood waters have receded, our work of serving the flood victims continues. FEMA/IEMA conducted a Preliminary Damage Assessments and OSEP put an advance team on the ground in Alexander County to facilitate the meeting of community needs and to ensure the effective communication of available assistance information to county and city representatives, faith-based and community groups. The impact area FCRCs are working with the victims on crisis assistance and food stamp replacement issues. A federal disaster has been declared for the 14 impacted counties. We are working on the D-SNAP application and possible implementation if it is approved.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to the DHS staff who worked long and hard to respond to the flood crisis and ensure that DHS customers continued to get services. They truly displayed the DHS Culture of Caring.

OSEP - Hero Tameling, Jim Young, Ken McCaffrey, Amy Dickenson-Ferguson

HCD - Alan Summers and the Region V Team, Joseph Mason

CHOATE - Cheryl Muckley, Steve Hartline, Chris Doctorman and staff

HELPLINE - Coty Murphy, Martha Younger-White and staff

ADVANCE TEAM - Fred Nettles, Partner for Hope

AGENCY PARTNERS - Diane Hoots, CMS, Brian Adams and John Eihlers, IDOC, and the SEOC Team