Glossary of Emergency Preparedness Terms

311 - 311 City Services provides a link for information and services.

Call 311 for:

  • City Services requests such as:

                                               Animal control problems (stray dogs)
                                               Abandoned vehicles
                                               Street lights

  • Date and time of a CAPS meeting
  • Mayor's Speakers Bureau requests
  • Special event information
  • Situations that do not require an immediate police response
  • Filing a police report
  • Property crimes that are no longer in progress, such as vandalism, thefts, graffiti, and stolen vehicles

To dial 311 City Services from outside the Chicago area, please call 312.744.5000.

ABC Type Fire Extinguishers - Use a dry chemical compound to put out fires

Anthrax - Caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis and is commonly found in livestock and can also be manufactured for use as weapon for bio-terror purposes. There are three primary way through which a person can be infected. Cutaneous Anthrax infects the skin and is caused by external exposure to Anthrax spores. It is treatable with antibiotics and does not typically lead to death. Inhalation of Anthrax is the most severe form of the disease, caused by breathing the spores into the lungs resulting in flu-like symptoms and eventually worsening and often fatal unless treatment is received.

Biological Attack - A biological attack occurs when a terrorist uses an agent that causes disease.

Bioterrorism Agents - Terrorism using biologic agents. Biological diseases and the agents that might be used for terrorism have been listed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC). The list includes a sizable number of "select agents" -- potential weapons whose transfer in the scientific and medical communities is regulated to keep them out of unfriendly hands. These "select agents" are very varied. They comprise viruses, bacteria, rickettsiae (micro-organisms that have traits common to both bacteria and viruses), fungi and biological toxins.

Blizzard Warning - Heavy snow and strong winds will produce a blinding snow, near zero visibility, deep drifts and life-threatening wind chill.

Bomb threat - A bomb threat is a form of terrorism -- a threat to detonate an explosive. Often, such a threat is made via a telephone call. Although 98% of all bomb threats turn out to be false, a nd are considered pranks, they should be treated as real until proven otherwise.

Chemical Attack - The intentional release of hazardous chemical materials would be classified as an act of terrorism, however accidents involving hazardous materials may also occur. The course of action should be the same in either case.

Cooling Station - Cooling stations are designated areas throughout the City that are activated during periods of extreme temperatures.

Electrolyte Solution - Electrolyte solutions/drinks contain sodium and potassium salts and are used to replenish the body's water and electrolyte levels after dehydration caused by exercise, diaphoresis, diarrhea vomiting, or starvation. Examples include Gatorade and Pedialyte.

Debris - The remains of something that has been otherwise destroyed. Depending on context, debris can refer to several things.

Dirty Bomb - A dirty bomb is a RDD that combines conventional explosives and radioactive material. On detonation the bomb is intended to scatter the radioactive material. It is possible that more damage and casualties may result from the explosion than from the radiation itself.

Flash Floods - A flood that is caused by heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period of time, generally under 6 hours, leading to water that rises and falls quite rapidly. The term may also be used to alert the public of non-life threatening flooding of small streams, streets, storm drains, and low lying urban areas. A flash flood can also be caused by the failure of a dam or from ice jams on waterways.

Freezing Rain - Freezing rain is rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads and walkways.

Frost/Freeze Warning - Below freezing temperatures are expected

Frostbite - Damage to body tissue caused by that tissue being frozen. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately! If you must wait for help, slowly warm affected areas.

Heat Cramps - Extremely high temperatures can cause muscular pains and spasms called heat cramps. Heat cramps don't usually require emergency medical attention but is an early sign that the body is having difficulty with heat.

Heat Exhaustion - Occurs when essential body fluids are lost through heavy sweating due to vigorous exercise or working in a hot, humid environment. Symptoms include: sweating; pale clammy skin; fatigue; headache; dizziness; shallow breaths; and a weak or rapid pulse. Heat Exhaustion can be treated with rest in a cool area, water or electrolyte solutions, elevating the feet twelve inches, and further medical treatment in severe cases.

Heat Index - The heat index combines air temperature and humidity to determine an apparent temperature, i.e., how hot it actually feels. The body cools itself by perspiration, or sweating, in which the water in the sweat evaporates and moves heat away from the body. However, the evaporation rate of the water is reduced when the relative humidity is high. Heat is removed from the body at a lower rate, causing it to retain more heat than it would in dry air

Heat Stroke - "Sunstroke." The body's temperature control system, which produces sweat to cool the body, stops working. The skin is flushed, hot and dry, and body temperature may be elevated. This is the most serious of all heat related and victims should seek medical attention.

Hypothermia - Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature gets too low. Symptoms include, uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion.

Island Effect - An urban heat island is a metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surroundings. As population grows in size, and infrastructure increases, cities tend to have a corresponding increase in average temperature. According to the EPA, on hot summer days, urban air can be 2-10°F [2-6°C] hotter than the surrounding countryside

Lake Effect - Lake effect occurs when cold winds move across long areas of warmer lake water, picking up water vapor that freezes and is deposited on shore. This effect is intensified when the moving air mass is uplifted by the higher elevations on the downwind shores. This uplift of air can produce intense bands of precipitation, which deposit at a rate of many inches of snow per hour.

NOAA - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Commerce focused on administering the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere. The NOAA warns of dangerous weather, charts our seas and skies, guides our use of ocean and coastal resources, and conducts research to improve our understanding of the environment.

Radiological Attack - Radiological attacks occur when radioactive material is intentionally released via RDD devices. A dirty bomb would be classified as such a device Accidents including radioactive material also occur in which

Radiological Dispersion Device - An RDD is designed to scatter amounts of radioactive material over a wide area. The further the material disperses, the less harmful it is. In most cases, the amount of material is unlikely to be lethal.

SARS - Caused by a virus and is characterized by high fever, cough and breathing difficulties, headache, which in some patients can be severe or even fatal. The disease is transmitted when persons come into contact with virus expelled by coughing, or with contaminated materials and surfaces. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has been watching for cases since the outbreak began in early 2003 and is working closely with hospitals and medical providers to increase their knowledge of the disease.

Shelter in Place - An instruction from emergency personnel to remain wherever you are currently located, generally used when there is air contamination.

Sleet - Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes roads to freeze and become slippery.

Smallpox - Causes high fever and rash and has a high fatality rate of around one in three. The disease is contagious, Thanks to vaccines, the disease is no longer occurs naturally. Because the United States stopped widespread Smallpox vaccinations in the 1970s, most people no longer carry immunity against the disease, making it an attractive tool to terrorists desiring to cause widespread illness and panic in a population

Severe Thunderstorm Watch - Severe thunderstorms are possible in our area.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning - Severe thunderstorms are occurring. Remember, tornadoes occasionally develop in areas in which a severe thunderstorm watch or warning is in effect. Remain alert to signs of an approaching tornado and seek shelter if threatening conditions exist.

Tornado Warning - A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. If a tornado warning is issued for your area and the sky becomes threatening, move to your pre-designated place of safety.

Tornado Watch - Tornadoes are possible in our area including downtown Chicago. Remain alert for approaching storms.

Warming Center - Warming centers are designated areas throughout the City that are activated during periods of extreme temperatures.

West Nile Virus - Mosquito-borne virus that can cause serious health conditions including encephalitis and meningitis West Nile is most common during peak mosquito season, June 1-Oct. 31. The City of Chicago monitors suspected cases of the disease in humans, and has a vigorous prevention and monitoring program

Wind-chill - The wind chill is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by combined effects of wind and cold. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature. Animals are also affected by wind chill.

Winter Weather Advisory - cold temperatures, ice and snow are expected.

Winter Storm Watch - Severe winter weather such as heavy snow or ice is possible within the next day or two.

Winter Storm Warning - severe winter conditions have begun or are about to begin.


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