Staying safe in the city

By Stephanie Saviola

Festivals, food, fireworks and Navy Pier are just some of the reasons Chicago locals look forward to warm weather. In addition to residents, the city draws millions of tourists during the summer each year.  With the recent bomb scare at Times Square in New York City, many cannot help but question if Chicago is prepared to handle something of that nature.

According to Cindy Gatziolis, spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, before any major festival and event there are citywide meetings with all departments that need to be involved on issues regarding safety.

“We work with departments like the Office of Emergency Management, the Chicago Police Department and the Fire Department,” Gatziolis said. “We also have security that helps us with crowd control on site and we trust our Chicago Police Department. They are great partners as far as security plans go.”

In addition to meetings and planning, the Office of Emergency Management holds disaster drills several times throughout the year along with those such as the Chicago Police and Fire Departments.

“Although there are no known threats made against Chicago in connection with the [recent potential] terrorist attack in New York, the safety and security of residents is our No. 1 priority,” said Will Knight, director of media affairs  for the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Knight said there is a disaster drill scheduled for June 16 with the Chicago Transit Authority, involving a train car incident. No other specific details

were released.

The CPD would not return phone calls, but in an e-mail statement, a spokesperson suggested festival-goers and citizens go to CPD’s ClearPath Web site for “a better understanding on safety tips and ideas.”

“We want to remind residents that vigilance and awareness of their surroundings is an important part of our safety efforts and we encourage them to report any unusual or suspicious activity to 911,” Knight said.

While the emergency management office works with local, state and federal law enforcements, they also partner with organizations like the Red Cross to help spread the word about safety tips to the public.

The Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency provide safety tips and plans so people can always be prepared in case of an emergency situation.

“If you are at a large event, have a designated meeting place,” said Cat Langel, senior external affairs specialist at FEMA. “Also, having an out-of-town contact that you can call in case all the local lines are tied up is good.”