It wasn’t long after the death last December of Brookfield Emergency Services and Disaster Agency (ESDA) Director Donald Houdek that word began circulating about the organization’s possible demise.
By February, village administrators were exploring a way to possibly merge the agency with another town’s unit. As the fiscal year 2006-07 budget neared completion, funds for ESDA were simply pulled. When May 1, the first day of the fiscal year, dawned, ESDA’s run was effectively over.
ESDA had its roots in the old Civil Defense Corps, which was established during World War II and continued in the shadow of the Cold War. It’s primary function was disaster preparedness, especially in the face of nuclear threat.
The old federal Civil Defense apparatus was dismantled during the 1970s and replaced with ESDA, which focused on such things as assisting people during natural disasters. Brookfield’s ESDA group thrived in the 1970s, growing to some 50 members.
In times of floods, they helped pump water out of local basements. They were called out to major disaster scenes such as the 1979 crash site of Flight 191 near O’Hare Airport and in the wake of the deadly Plainfield tornado in 1990.
Brookfield was known in the area as the town you called when you had a night emergency and you needed lights. Houdek and ESDA refurbished an old truck into a light truck that could bring daylight to the darkest scene.
In the late 1990s, ESDA’s membership began to decline and Sept. 11, 2001 signaled a radical change in the way America understood civil emergency preparedness.
Although ESDA was absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security, police and fire departments in large metropolitan areas such as Chicago have increased their cooperation and have taken on the role of planning for disaster and emergency preparedness.
In the present day, would ESDA be called on to help secure the crash site of an airplane? It would be swarmed by professional police and federal agents.
In the event of natural disasters and major crime operations, police and fire departments have forged multi-jurisdictional agreements whereby municipal borders have become merely lines on paper. If the Village of Addison needs help for a major crime incident, it’s not uncommon to have an officer from places like Riverside respond.
The climate has changed, and the loss of ESDA in Brookfield is a reflection of that new reality.
This is not to say that ESDA doesn’t have a place any longer in the realm of emergency response. It certainly does, but it?”like police and fire?”is moving toward a more regional concept.
If Brookfield’s ESDA group is folded into Countryside’s, that is simply a reflection of that regionalism. Despite actual town affiliation, those Brookfield residents who are still ESDA members would be able to respond to local emergencies the way they do now.
Brookfield won’t be any less safe or prepared with the loss of the local ESDA unit. Rather, the loss of ESDA is another example of time marching forward without regard for our attachments to past institutions.
Thanks, ESDA members past and present, for all of the dedication to Brookfield and its residents.