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City Building Back-up 911 Center on the Sly

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Apr 2, 2009 4:00PM

Photo by Skelly B
While Mayor Daley has spent most of the last several months huffing and puffing about the Olympics, Al Sanchez, and conflicts with the police, the City has quietly been building a back-up 911 center at O'Hare meant to be used if a terrorist attack or natural disaster renders the current West Loop 911 center useless.

Rooms in that building -- possibly two floors below ground -- are being retrofitted into a rudimentary version of Chicago's state-of-the-art 911 center at Madison and Loomis. The work started in late January. It was not known when the work would be completed or how much it would cost.

Dispatchers and call takers will not have their own consoles at the backup facility. They will field calls while seated four-to-a-table. The project will be paid for by federal Homeland Security funds.

Ray Orozco, executive director of the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said, "Post Sept. 11, all cities are making efforts to shore up their security. I will neither confirm nor deny the steps we're taking -- whatever they are. I won't do it. No one will do it. There's a lot at stake. I try to be as open with you as I can. But, there are some things I just can't discuss." The Dept. of Homeland Security allegedly hounded the City to make the back-up center due to Chicago being ranked high on a list of potential terrorist targets. Andrew Velasquez, former 911 center chief and current director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, suggested several places that were rejected by DHS, such as McCormick Place, Navy Pier and Chicago Park District field houses; those locations would potentially serve as shelters for residents. [Sun-Times]