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Written by John Dwyer   
Thursday, 07 May 2015 14:08

IEMA Helps Schools Remove Unused Radioactive Materials

Program enables schools to avoid costly disposal costs and ensure student safety

SPRINGFIELD -- More than 60 Illinois schools already have benefitted from a state program that helps schools safely remove unused radioactive materials at no cost. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is encouraging other schools to check for similar materials in storage closets and laboratories and to contact IEMA about collection and disposal.

“We believe there are many more schools in Illinois that could benefit from this program,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “Some of them may be unaware they have old radioactive materials tucked away in labs or storage closets. We have the expertise and equipment to safely remove these materials from schools and prevent students and faculty from unnecessary exposure to radiation.”

Types of radioactive materials found in schools are chemical compounds containing uranium or thorium and small solid sealed sources. This material is commonly used in chemistry, physics, and earth science experiments to demonstrate the physical and chemical properties of radioactive material.

The school initiative was created in 2005 as part of IEMA’s Orphan Source Recovery Program, in which the agency collects unwanted or abandoned radioactive materials throughout the state. These “orphan sources” are radioactive materials that have been abandoned, found or entered the commerce of scrap material without being able to identify its origin. These materials may pose a threat to public health and safety or potential impacts to the environment.

There is no cost to schools for IEMA’s removal of the materials.  A school not using IEMA’s program could pay more than $1,000 for disposal of the material.  In addition, a spill of the materials at the school could create extra expenses for cleanup activities. 

Once the radioactive material is collected by IEMA, it is securely stored until enough material is collected to make disposal economical. Disposal costs are covered by a federal grant.

IEMA recently assisted LaSalle-Peru Township High School with removal of radioactive teaching kits from the 1960s that were stored in old cabinets.

“I cannot say enough for IEMA’s program to remove unused or unwanted radioactive sources from schools,” said LaSalle-Peru Township High School Superintendent Steven Wrobleski. “The agency responded immediately and sent a field rep to our high school to test and remove the materials at no cost to the district. They were great to work with and saved us thousands of dollars by not having to hire a private firm. This is a great example of our state government working to help schools!”

Any schools with unwanted radioactive materials can contact IEMA at (217) 558-5135 for more information about the Orphan Source Recovery Program School Initiative.

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Written by John Dwyer   
Monday, 04 May 2015 09:28

Emergency Preparedness Important for People
with Disabilities and Functional Needs

Ready Illinois website offers preparedness tips for people, caregivers

SPRINGFIELD – While every home should have a disaster preparedness kit and family communications plan, emergency preparedness is particularly important for households with members who have disabilities, functional needs or may need assistance during an emergency.

Throughout May, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) will highlight information and tips to help people and their caregivers be better prepared for emergencies.

“An ice storm, tornado or other disaster can leave people without power, heat or water for several days,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “For those who may need some type of assistance, these conditions can be even more dangerous if they aren’t prepared.”

Joseph said the Ready Illinois website (www.Ready.Illinois.gov) offers preparedness information for people with visual, cognitive or mobility impairments; people who are deaf or hard of hearing; those who utilize service animals or life support systems; and senior citizens.

The Ready Illinois website also includes more than two dozen preparedness videos in American Sign Language (ASL) with full captioning. ASL is a natural, visual, non-spoken language extensively used within and among the deaf community.

The videos cover such topics as how to make a household emergency plan, build an emergency supply kit, plan for evacuation and sheltering in place and preparedness for specific hazards, such as tornadoes, severe storms and floods.

In addition to the Ready Illinois website, preparedness tips for people with access and functional needs will be highlighted throughout May at www.facebook.com/ReadyIllinois and at twitter.com/ReadyIllinois.

Last Updated on Monday, 04 May 2015 09:30
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Written by John Dwyer   
Wednesday, 22 April 2015 15:00

Emergency Management Officials Launch Weather Alert Radio Contest

‘Weather Alert Radios Save Lives’ contest promotes awareness;
100 radios to be awarded

SPRINGFIELD – The recent devastating tornadoes in northern Illinois were a heartbreaking reminder of the tornado risk in Illinois. To increase awareness and use of an important severe weather alerting tool, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the Illinois Emergency Services Management Association (IESMA) today launched an online quiz for a chance to win a weather alert radio.

The ‘Weather Alert Radios Save Lives’ contest is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov. The contest will run from April 22 – May 22. This is the third time IEMA and IESMA have sponsored the statewide contest.

“It’s important for people to have multiple ways to receive severe weather warnings, particularly at night when most of us are sleeping,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “Weather alert radios will sound a tone when a warning has been issued for your area and give you information about the approaching hazard. Similar to a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector, a weather alert radio can give you precious time to take safety precautions.”

A total of 100 weather alert radios will be awarded to participants who register after reading information about the radios and successfully completing a five-question quiz. Winners will be announced in late May. The radios were purchased by IESMA as part of an effort to increase the use of the devices in communities throughout Illinois.

“IESMA is excited to team up with IEMA for this valuable awareness contest,” said IESMA President Kevin Sargent. “Each region of the state is affected by some type of extreme weather each year. This year is no exception with the tornado outbreak in central and northern Illinois earlier this month. IESMA believes many lives are saved each year by people being able to receive severe weather warnings from NOAA weather alert radios. Please take time to participate in this contest for a chance to win one of 100 weather alert radios to be given away.”

The National Weather Service (NWS) and state and local emergency management officials encourage individuals and businesses to have a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio All Hazards with battery backup, a tone-alert feature and Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) technology, which allows the radio to be programmed to receive alerts for specified counties.  When an alert is issued for that area, the device will sound a warning alarm tone followed by the broadcast message.

Besides weather information, the NWS also broadcasts warnings and post-event information for all types of hazards, including natural, environmental and public safety hazards, such as earthquakes, chemical spills and AMBER alerts.

More information about severe weather preparedness also is available at www.Ready.Illinois.gov

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 April 2015 15:01
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Written by John Dwyer   
Wednesday, 15 April 2015 07:25

FEMA Launches New Feature to Mobile App Empowering Users to Follow Weather Alerts Across the Country

Release date: April 14, 2015.

Release Number: HQ-15-017.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) launched a new feature to its free app that will enable users to receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations across the nation. This new feature allows users to receive alerts on severe weather happening anywhere they select in the country, even if the phone is not located in the area, making it easy to follow severe weather that may be threatening family and friends.

“Emergency responders and disaster survivors are increasingly turning to mobile devices to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters,” said Craig Fugate, FEMA administrator. “This new feature empowers individuals to assist and support family and friends before, during, and after a severe weather event.”

“Every minute counts when severe weather threatens and mobile apps are an essential way to immediately receive the life-saving warnings provided by NOAA’s National Weather Service,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA administrator.  “These alerts are another tool in our toolbox as we work to build a ‘Weather Ready Nation’ – a nation that’s ready, responsive, and resilient to extreme weather events.”

According to a recent survey by Pew Research, 40 percent of Americans have used their smartphone to look up government services or information. Additionally, a majority of smartphone owners use their devices to keep up to date with breaking news, and to be informed about what is happening in their community.

The new weather alert feature adds to the app’s existing features to help Americans through emergencies. In addition to this upgrade, the app also provides a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, maps of open shelters and Disaster Recovery Centers, and tips on how to survive natural and manmade disasters. The FEMA app also offers a “Disaster Reporter” feature, where users can upload and share photos of disaster damage.

Some other key features of the app include:
•Safety Tips: Tips on how to stay safe before, during, and after over 20 types of hazards, including floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes
•Disaster Reporter: Users can upload and share photos of damage and recovery efforts
•Maps of Disaster Resources: Users can locate and receive driving directions to open shelters and disaster recovery centers
•Apply for Assistance: The app provides easy access to apply for federal disaster assistance
•Information in Spanish: The app defaults to Spanish-language content for smartphones that have Spanish set as their default language

The latest version of the FEMA app is available for free in the App Store for Apple devices and Google Play for Android devices.  Users who already have the app downloaded on their device should download the latest update for the weather alerts feature to take effect. The new weather alerts feature in the FEMA app does not replace Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) function available on many new smartphones. WEAs have a special tone and vibration and are sent for emergencies such as extreme weather, AMBER alerts, or Presidential Alerts.

To learn more about the FEMA app, visit: The FEMA App: Helping Your Family Weather the Storm.

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Written by John Dwyer   
Wednesday, 08 April 2015 09:13

IEMA Encourages People to Stay Aware, Be Prepared
for Potential Severe Weather This Week

Heavy rainfall, dangerous thunderstorms possible for most
of Illinois Wednesday night through Thursday night

SPRINGFIELD – With widespread severe weather predicted for most of Illinois Wednesday night through Thursday night, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) today encouraged people to stay aware of local forecasts and be prepared to act quickly if storm warnings are issued.

“This major storm system could bring localized flooding from heavy rains, severe thunderstorms with damaging wind gusts and large hail, and even a chance for tornadoes,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “We want everyone to stay aware, be prepared to seek shelter if a storm warning is issued, and to ‘Turn Around, Don’t Drown” if they encounter a flooded road.”

Joseph said people should have multiple ways to receive notifications and updated information about severe weather warnings, such as through a weather alert radio, Wireless Emergency Alerts, weather alert apps, TV and radio broadcasts, the Internet, outdoor warning sirens and more.

Some storms are expected Wednesday and Thursday during the evening and overnight hours, an especially dangerous time since most people are asleep at those times. That’s why it’s important to be able to receive severe weather warnings day or night. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather alert radios can be programmed to issue a tone alarm and provide information about a warning that has been issued for your county.

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) are available on most smartphones. Check your phone’s notification settings under ‘Government Alerts’ to ensure ‘Emergency Alerts’ is turned on. With a WEA-enabled phone, you will receive tornado and flash flood warnings issued for your location, even if you’re traveling outside your home county or state. Other smartphone alerting apps also are available, including the tornado app by the American Red Cross.

In addition, many communities have outdoor warning sirens, which can alert people outdoors of an approaching hazard. Don’t rely on these sirens to alert you when you’re inside a building or asleep.

For more information about severe weather preparedness, visit www.Ready.Illinois.gov.


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