BY BRIAN L. HUCHEL
A local resident is headed to the East Coast to help coordinate relief efforts for survivors of Hurricane Sandy.
Michelle Rice of Tilton — a member of the Vermilion County Emergency Management Agency — shipped out Friday morning from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Springfield en route to New York City as part of a team of 13 county EMA members from throughout the state as well as two IEMA employees.
The team was assembled as a result of requests for assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), the nation’s state-to-state mutual aid system.
Vermilion County EMA Director Ted Fisher said Rice was “excited” at the prospect after volunteering to be eligible for EMAC assignment — when needed — almost five years ago. Training for the designation, he said, included studying and taking classes on both federal and state emergency management procedures and information.
“It’s a tremendous learning experience,” Fisher said. “She is pretty excited to see what will happen.”
Fisher was unaware of where Rice would be stationed for her assignment, which was expected to last around two weeks. Fisher believed she would set up in one of the city’s emergency operations centers. There she would assist in operations and logistics for the center, according to a press release from the State of Illinois.
Rice and the rest of the team is expected to return to Illinois on Nov. 16.
The assistance from Illinois comes less than a week after Sandy flooded neighborhoods, knocked out power to millions of homes and businesses and killed more than 90 people.
Fisher said he expected the two weeks to be work-intensive, with 12-14 hour days followed by nights sleeping on cots either at the emergency operations center or elsewhere.
“It’s not like staying at the Waldorf Astoria,” he said.
EMAC coordinates assistance for states affected by disasters with available resources from unaffected states to support response and recovery efforts. IEMA, the Illinois National Guard and other Illinois public safety agencies are also a part of the compact, providing assistance in response to further EMAC requests.
Illinois has deployed teams to other states on several occasions, including following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when more than 2,500 first responders and other personnel from Illinois were sent to the Gulf Coast.