Press Release

November 9, 2007

Blagojevich Administration announces landmark emergency preparedness initiative to reach Illinois’ Hispanic/Latino community

Illinois first state in the nation leveraging federal funding to work with public entities and religious organizations to increase preparedness against natural disasters, pandemic flu and other emergency events.  

CHICAGO, Ill. – Officials from Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s Administration today announced that the landmark Faith-Based Emergency Preparedness Initiative will reach the state’s growing Hispanic/Latino community. The preparedness initiative announced earlier this year by the Governor made Illinois the first state in the nation to leverage federal funding to work with public entities and religious organizations to enhance preparedness against major emergencies, including natural disasters and pandemic flu outbreaks. The Initiative calls for the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to work in partnership with the Cook County Department of Public Health and the Broadcast Ministers Alliance of Chicago, Inc. Materials and training will be provided at churches to help families “Be prepared.”

“When Illinois responded to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, we realized how crucial it is to work with organizations that are part of people’s daily lives to coordinate aid in times of emergency. Churches, in many cases, are the heart of their communities. This federal funding will allow us to work with Cook County and several religious leaders so that the state’s Latino community can be prepared to face an emergency,” said Gov. Blagojevich.

The goal of the Illinois Faith-Based Emergency Preparedness Initiative is to develop an infrastructure to provide African American and Latino churches statewide with the resources and training necessary to disseminate emergency preparedness information and resources to communities across the state. Many underserved and minority organizations do not have the resources necessary to educate their communities on the importance of preparedness. The Initiative, labeled “Be Prepared” will be funded by federal preparedness money, and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) will grant $600,000 to the Broadcast Ministers’ Alliance.

“Churches are a valuable asset in helping people prepare for and respond to various emergencies. Especially since churches have always played a critical role in our communities. Second to family and friends, churches are where people turn to in times of need. That was certainly the case when Hurricane Katrina hit and churches became part of the front lines for disaster response and relief,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold, who made the announcement on behalf of the Governor during a press conference in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood.

During today’s announcement, faith-based organizations signed up a representative to receive training from IDPH on how to present emergency preparation information to the community. Those faith-based organization representatives will then team up with a representative from the Midwest Latino Health Research, Training, and Policy Center and go into communities to educate other congregations and organizations about emergency preparations and hand out “tool kits.” The emergency tool kits contain supplies such as pain-relievers, hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, water and other materials a person might need during an emergency as well as information on the importance of social distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette and more. The tool kits will inform and educate people on emergency preparedness and act as a guide or starting point for people to begin their own preparations such as stocking up on non-perishable food, water, medicines and gathering battery powered radio, flashlight, emergency contact information, etc.

“As Director of the Midwest Latino Health Research, Training, and Policy Center at the University of Illinois in Chicago, I know the importance of preparing and empowering our community. There is a need for the Illinois Faith-Based Emergency Preparedness Initiative as developed by the Illinois Department of Public Health and we will be totally involved with the program,” said Dr. Aida Giachello. “Our churches have always played a vital role in our communities, particularly in time of need. Our organization is pleased to assist the Illinois Department of Public Health on this initiative.”

As another part of the Initiative, IDPH created a guidance document for faith-based organizations about being a central component of disaster planning efforts. Many faith-based organizations operate homeless shelters, food pantries or meal delivery programs. During an emergency these services may be needed to help house or feed people. For example, if families were asked to stay home due to an infectious disease outbreak, faith-based organizations could coordinate a meal delivery schedule to get food to households. Cities, counties and the State could rely on these already existing infrastructures to help respond to the needs of the community during an emergency.

This fall, IDPH began working with hundreds of African-American churches statewide, as well as other community and health organizations, to implement a comprehensive, coordinated and consistent plan to deal with emergency situations that could have catastrophic consequences – all this in an state focused effort to “Be Prepared.”

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Illinois Department of Public Health
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Springfield, Illinois 62761
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TTY 800-547-0466
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