Winnebago Co. business leaders, first responders discuss emergency strategies

Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 5:14 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Knowing how to respond to an emergency before it happens is critical for first responders in Winnebago County and across the state.

The Winnebago County Local Emergency Planning Committee met Friday to discuss how our region best responds to emergencies.

“It’s very important that we partner with them as first responders so it gives us an idea of what we’re going into,” said Rockford Fire Department Division Chief of Operations Tim O’Keefe.

The guests included first responders and leaders from companies like Viking Chemicals and Ecolabs, which house hazardous chemicals.

“All of those industries have to file an annual report for public distribution, so the community knows what kind of hazardous materials are in and around the community,” said Local Emergency Planning Committee Chairman Chuck Corley.

Corley thinks it’s important to meet with first responders from the community, so if there’s a fire or spill at one of our local businesses, the response is swift.

“Anybody that responds knows what is in the building and the fire departments are aware hopefully of where in that building the material is located. So when they get a fire or release in one part of the building, they’ll know that is the location of the hazardous materials,” he said.

This is something O’Keefe and his team greatly appreciate.

“Right out of the door when we get dispatched to our hazardous materials team, we know what we’re dealing with, so it’s very helpful as first responders,” he told 23 News.

One of the big chemical company mishaps in the area was the Chemtool Inc. fire last year. That decimated the surrounding area and clean up at the plant continues to this day.