Evanston will be participating in a statewide simulated emergency test Saturday morning that assumes substantial disruption and damage from a strong line of thunderstorms, called a super derecho.
The scenario is based upon a storm system that occurred earlier this year that began in central Indiana and swept all the way to the East Coast.
The test assumes that the storm wipes out all power in Illinois and even shuts down the nuclear plants that normally supply most of the electrical power in the state.
Because of the extensive damage that could occur in such a storm, with straight line winds in excess of 100 MPH, the test assumes that the entire communications grid would be down. That means no landline telephone service, no cell phone service, and no internet.
Local fire and police would still be able to communicate with each other, but ham radio operators with emergency generators would be virtually the only connection the city would have with the outside world.
Fire Department Division Chief Thomas Janetske, who is in charge of emergency preparedness operations for the city, said that volunteers from both the Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) and the Evanston Amateur Radio Community (EARC) will be involved locally from 8 a.m. until noon.
CERT members will go out into the community and provide simulated status reports to the city’s Emergency Operations Center near the Civic Center, where EARC members will be in touch, through ham radio, with downstate participants.
Each year the statewide test involves a different scenario. In previous years, the volunteers coped with a simulated earthquake in the St. Louis area that would have disrupted gas lines and communications links throughout the state.
Another year, the simulation assumed a giant ice storm that paralyzed the area.
The exercise enables volunteers and emergency officials to ensure that their communications systems are in working order so as to be better prepared for a real emergency.