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In Case Of Emergency, Convention Center Ready

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By: Diane Turner-Hurns
Journal & Topics Reporter

Although there has never been a major emergency at Rosemont’s Donald E. Stephens Convention Center (DESCC) since its opening in 1975, staff is nevertheless prepared for one just in case.

“We continuously undergo contingency situation drills to review and update our emergency plans for the Convention Center and with the Village of Rosemont to protect people and property,” explained Executive Director Christopher Stephens. “We just had a major drill involving a possible active shooter.”

A contingency is a future event or circumstance that is possible, but cannot be predicted with certainty.

“Although the Convention Center has not had an emergency event since it opened, we are prepared,” Stephens continued. The huge facility is located at River Road and Bryn Mawr Avenue.
Stephens discussed DESCC emergency planning with the Journal & Topics just after the March 22nd bombing of the Brussels, Belgium, airport and a subway station by members of the Islamic State in which more than 30 people were killed.

That tragedy and those that recently occurred in Paris and San Bernardino, CA, caused by terrorists are hard to predict, as are fires, workplace violence, earthquakes and more. Municipalities, state and federal governments and companies regularly prepare emergency plans to address all types of possible scenarios.

The DESCC maintains a strong security presence as thousands of people from around the world walk through the doors of the Convention Center every week. Many former Rosemont Public Safety Department officers work at the Convention Center.

“We not only have drills and review and update our emergency plans, but we communicate our contingency procedures to all groups that hold conventions and conferences on the property and with our employees,” Stephens remarked.

“We have done large scale drills, for instance, for a situation involving active shooters, at the center with our employees and security personnel. We employ several former Rosemont public safety officers as part of our security team.”

The Village through Public Safety Department Chief Donald Stephens III conducts ongoing meetings with all departments where they review contingency plans and operational backup plans for the Village, its businesses and residents, added Stephens. “For instance, the public works department is ready to step in at any time to, for example, provide street barriers if needed and monitoring water and much more.”

Stephens said before each convention show, his staff conducts safety and security meetings with all those involved from vendors, speakers, exhibitors and more.

He said the DESCC’s Director of Building Security Tom Petruzzelli, Rosemont’s former police chief, does an outstanding job in preparing staff for any contingency situation. Petruzelli has been at the DESCC since 2000.

“Additionally, we tell everyone to call 911 if they see something of concern to them. Call the police. Nothing is too small or too big,” Stephens said. “Our buildings are open to the public so it’s important to always be aware of one’s surroundings and what’s happening.”

DESCC security personnel patrols and monitors public areas at the facility, parking lots and perimeters 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The DESCC contingency plan also incorporates responses and procedures should the following occur: civil disturbances, power failure, natural hazard, workplace violence, medical emergencies, fire and visible smoke, suspicious materials, explosive devices, bomb threats, active shooter and evacuation.

“We are always reviewing and updating our emergency plans so that we continue to provide a safe and secure venue for everyone here,” Stephens said.

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