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NIU, local responders join for severe weather tabletop exercise

May 1, 2015

20150501_083857Leaders and first responders from Northern Illinois University, City of DeKalb and DeKalb County joined representatives from DeKalb School District 428 and the National Weather Service for a tabletop exercise program centered on a communiversity response to a hypothetical tornado incident affecting NIU and DeKalb Friday morning. The May 1 event was facilitated by NIU Meteorologist Gilbert Sebenste and NIU Emergency Management Coordinator Kyle Ullmark.

While the event was scheduled more than a month in advance, the hypothetical scenario was eerily similar to a scenario that played out April 9 when an EF-4 tornado hit Rochelle in Ogle County and Fairdale in DeKalb County.

20150501_085219“I always say that with tornadoes, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” Sebenste said. “Statistically, DeKalb is hit by a tornado every 30 years. The last tornado that hit DeKalb was in 1984, so do the math.”

The exercise demonstrated, through discussion, the process of establishing incident command, unified command and the Multi-Agency Coordination System. The public information and warning procedures, policies and protocols for each phase of the incident were discussed, and the event included a fruitful discussion about communication among responding agencies and coordination of emergency response operations.

20150501_081858“Perhaps the most important thing is the fact that we were all in the same room at the DeKalb Police Department working together to plan for how to respond in a coordinated fashion to a disaster, should it hit our community,” said NIU Police Chief Tom Phillips. “Unfortunately, we know too well the devastation that can occur from a severe weather event.”

More than 30 people attended the exercise, which took place the morning after NIU hosted a tornado symposium sponsored by the NIU Department of Geography, which oversees the university’s undergraduate meteorology program.