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Gary Airport to be emergency response base

By Jackie Harris

The Gary 411

Committed to lessons learned from mitigating natural disasters and those caused by man, a team of regional public agencies and private enterprises believes that sharing resources and information is the best way to respond to future emergencies.

On February 10 at the Gary/Chicago International Airport, the team announced a long sought-after goal was close to becoming a reality.

NIISSA (Northwest Indiana Information Sharing and Security Alliance) members work in the areas of public safety, emergency management, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, and cyber security across five counties in northern Indiana.

The Alliance had skilled emergency responders and leaders to manage disasters, said NIISSA president Steve Scheckel, but a major piece was missing. That missing piece was a regional facility where NIISSA members could collaborate, coordinate operations, and host state and federal emergency preparedness agencies.

NIISSA announced that their new facility — the Multi-Agency Coordinating Center — would be located at the Gary airport and a developer, LM Commercial Real Estate had signed on to the project.

Sharing information will avoid one of the consequences the region suffered during the floods of 2008. Scheckel said the flooding shut down I-80/94 for 10 days. “Steel mills and other manufacturers needing to get products in and out wanted to know what alternate routes were available, but couldn’t get a hold of the Indiana Department of Transportation. They were all out in the field.”

Industry lost millions of dollars, Scheckel said. “We can’t let that happen again. The next time, in case an expressway has to be shut down, we can have everybody in one room – the private sector, INDOT, and the state police – so they can work out alternate routes.”

NIISSA has already created a shared resource inventory list for equipment and resources that partners will share in case of emergencies. If a partner needs a pump, they can borrow it instead of purchasing one.

The Alliance is hopeful Lake County’s 911 Backup Center will locate to the Mid America Corporative Council (MACC).

NISSA’s predecessor was the Critical Infrastructure Group, public and private sector partners who met with Indiana U.S. Attorney David Capp after the 2008 floods. That meeting identified the need to establish a group that would work to better prepare the region should another disaster strike.

The airport has offered two sites for the MACC. Construction will begin after state and federal approvals.

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