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A Brief History of the Naperville Emergency Management Agency

The City of Naperville’s Emergency Management Agency (EMA) was founded in 1950 as the Naperville Civil Defense Agency. Civilian volunteers comprised the membership of the group, which operated in conjunction with the Fire Department. The primary function of Civil Defense was to prepare for and respond to the effects of a nuclear attack upon the civilian population of the US. Funding for the Naperville Civil Defense Unit, as well as for other units across the country came primarily from the Federal Government.

Disaster and radiological emergency response was the primary duty of Civil Defense; first aid training, rescue techniques, basic firefighting skills, establishment and maintenance of nuclear fallout shelters, installation and operation of outdoor warning sirens, and emergency radio communications were additional responsibilities.

As the years progressed, the Naperville Civil Defense Unit became involved with natural, as well as man-made disaster preparation and response. Tornado and severe storm monitoring and warning duties, and response to these emergencies became a part of the overall scope of operations. Civil Defense began to assist various other public agencies with special events operations such as parades, fireworks displays, and other similar events and provided emergency assistance at major accidents, fires, and police functions.

In the 1970’s, as focus began to shift away from preparation for the effects of nuclear war, many Civil Defense units, including Naperville’s, changed their names to Emergency Service and Disaster Agency. It was believed by many that this title better described the scope of operations undertaken.

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s a growing demand for increased preparedness and response to emergency incidents, especially weather-related disasters, hazardous materials spills, earthquakes, telecommunications and electrical power breakdowns, and other problems associated with late 20th Century everyday life, led many Civil Defense/ESDA units to once again re-assess their mission and scope of operations. A new name, one which reflects the very broad scope of the tasks at hand was chosen: Emergency Management Agency. The City of Naperville’s unit adopted this title and is presently known as the Naperville Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

In 1989, an EMA coordinator was appointed on a full-time basis, supported by a strong volunteer group, to bring the program in line with federal and state requirements. Today Naperville has one of the top rated programs in the State of Illinois.

Over the years, the goals of the Agency remained the same: to prepare the City and its residents to cope with any emergencies or disasters that may arise.


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