Cook County’s New Mutual Aid Relationship Means Improved Services and Faster Response Times During Emergencies

The Cook County Board of Commissioners approved an agreement that creates a mutual aid relationship between Cook County and the Illinois Public Works Mutual Aid Network (IPWMAN). As a member of IPWMAN, Cook County will have access to valuable statewide resources that will allow the County to augment its existing arsenal of resources, and improve response times during disasters and emergencies. For example, Cook County will be able to request and provide mutual aid resources to other municipalities—when are faced with situations that require immediate help beyond their capabilities. The IPWMAN agreement, introduced at the meeting by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, marks yet another progressive move by the County in its aim to build wide-ranging partnerships. It was promoted by both the Cook County Department of Homeland Security (DHSEM), which provides an emergency management system that integrates first responders, their departments and resources from the 134 municipalities that make up Cook County; and the Cook County Highway Department, which is responsible for maintaining the County’s roadways and infrastructure. “This agreement is one more example of Cook County forming strong community partnerships that enhance our capability to respond to disasters and potentially save lives,” President Preckwinkle said. “ I commend the Cook County Highway Department and the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for developing ways to improve these life-saving services and reduce taxpayer costs at the same time.” About Illinois Public Works Mutual Aid Network (IPWMAN) It is the mission of the Illinois Public Works Mutual Aid Network (IPWMAN), in the spirit of intergovernmental cooperation, to develop and maintain a statewide network of public works related agencies whose principal purpose is to provide mutual aid response and recovery assistance to each other when confronted with major natural or man-made emergencies and disasters. As first responders, public works agencies began to look at efficient ways to allocate resources to communities that needed help during times of disasters and emergencies. Fire departments and law enforcement agencies have had statewide mutual aid programs in place, but public works agencies depended upon help from their neighboring communities. Recently, weather-related emergencies have caused wide-spread damage making it difficult for neighboring communities to help each other since they were helping their own citizens with storm damage. IPWMAN officially launched its statewide program in January 2009 to be able to efficiently respond to communities when help is needed. The Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) serves as the central agency in Cook County for coordinating efforts to prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from all incidents, whether man-made or natural.