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  • Fairbury News staff

What-if scenarios explored

Back: Nathan Fehr, Ben Herr, Chris Matich, Jason Leman, Robert McCormick, Tyler Roth, Bud Honegger, James Steidinger, Mike Mellott, Josh Hoselton, Eli Stork, Alan Walter, Kyle Walter, Brandon Stoller, Bill Schmidgall. Middle: Jon Kinate, Paula Crane, Mark Trainor, Taylor Tull, Thane Schaffer, Ron Monroe, Graham Haley, Jeremy Stoller, Brad Duncan, JR Rinkenberger, Martin Steidinger, Dave Slagel, Dale Male, Tanner Ifft, Greg Bazzell. First row: Jennifer Filipiak, Roger Stryker, Logan Spenard, Wes Steidinger, Matt Curl, Deb Moran, Gunner Sullivan, Jim Hargitt, Ross Steidinger, Kent Steidinger, Brad Rhodes. Not pictured: Gary Norris, Brett Ashburn, Alex Reis, Dale Diller, Sharon Monroe, Cathy Beck, Steve Giusti, Trish Steffen.

A tornado directly hitting Fairbury or an active shooter in a small town aren’t typical scenarios but they can happen.

These and other topics were explored during an emergency planning meeting held at Fairbury Speedway, featuring representatives from the Fairbury Fire Department, City Hall, Police Department, SELCAS and volunteer groups.

Fairbury ESDA director Deb Moran moderated the meeting, noting the American Legion building is always available during a disaster. She said there is a Memorandum of Understanding with several businesses in times of an emergency, ranging from construction and transportation to car dealers and electricians.

“The words are prepare, prepare, prepare,” said Moran.

McLean County Emergency Management Agency director Cathy Beck informed the group of the EMA, which works with the Livingston County coordinator.

“My most valuable asset is my volunteers,” Beck explained.

McLean County EMA runs a spotter network throughout that county for severe weather, making the decision to sound sirens. Incident command in a large-scale event is another function of the agency.

“We do a lot of search and rescue calls,” added Beck.

If the Fairbury area is in need of a search and rescue team or command post, McLean County EMA will help and they do not send a bill.

Beck gave tours of the Unified Command Post vehicle for Homeland Security Region 11, which was parked outside. They got the vehicle after September 11, 2001 as there were only a few distributed around Illinois.

Prairie Central Superintendent Paula Crane said the school district has worked with the speedway to have a temporary area in the event of an evacuation. Crane explained a planned gymnasium for the nearby Prairie Central Elementary could be a full cement facility to be used as a storm shelter, although plans for the gym have been put on hold while the district conducts a full facility study of schools.

Fairbury Speedway owner and promoter Matt Curl revealed the facility brought in nearly 50,000 people over the entire season of races, the Fairbury Fair and country concert held in the spring. The popular Prairie Dirt Classic race has become the main event which saw around 8,000 people.

“We’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars for making people safe,” noted Curl.

“We’ll do our best to make sure we are as safe as possible.”

Curl acknowledged the poor cell service during the PDC weekend and said they are looking into the issue. Fiber-optic options are possible where people could tap into wi-fi. Advanced measures have been taken for parking and logistics during the PDC and Life Flight helicopters can land if needed. Weather protocols have been put in place for the speedway as a bad storm hit the area during the summer of 2020 with no injuries.

“As we progress year after year, we are able to gain more information to do that,” explained Curl.

Curl feels a severe thunderstorm or tornado are emergencies that could easily happen and social media is a big asset due to how fast information can travel.

Curl has confidence in his security staff who would help do what they can to safely evacuate the public in the event of an emergency.

A question was posed about what happens when an active shooter is on the grounds.

“If someone’s shooting off rounds in this area, most of your people are going to know what that sound is,” said Fairbury Police Chief Robert McCormick.

Ron and Sharon Monroe reviewed disaster programs offered by the United Methodist Church. They have access to cleanup buckets and support personnel through the Early Response Team. Also, Connecting Neighbors is a disaster ready curriculum of the UMC.

Fairbury firefighter Nathan Fehr (left) and Police Chief Robert McCormick (middle) talk with Steve Giusti of McLean County EMA.

Deb Moran, Matt Curl, Roger Stryker and Gunner Sullivan participating in Monday's meeting.

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