Mokena Emergency Services & Disaster Agency traces its beginnings back to 1957 when the Village of Mokena created the Mokena Civil Defense Agency. Like other civil defense agencies formed all over the country during that time, Mokena Civil Defense's primary responsibility focused on preparing for the possibility of a nuclear attack. It is known that the Village, together with the Mokena Fire District purchased a civil defense siren around 1964, but little other information exists about Mokena Civil Defense's activities before the early 1970's. In 1976, the Village of Mokena changed the name of Mokena Civil Defense to Mokena Emergency Services & Disaster Agency (ESDA), to be consistent with the new name of the Illinois Civil Defense Agency. It also reflected the change from strictly attack preparedness to preparing for all hazards, including natural, technological, and attack.
Throughout the civil defense days the agency's activities were confined to disaster preparedness, and its staff consisted solely of a director. During that same period many other communities' civil defense programs provided various types of emergency services in addition to disaster preparedness activities. Mokena began to see the value of establishing an emergency services component and in 1978 ESDA Director Frank Walsh and two other volunteers formed the beginning of today's ESDA program in Mokena.
ESDA's emergency services were at first limited by the small size of the agency and the lack of equipment at its disposal. They directed traffic for community events and occasionally for emergencies, helped clear trees and guarded wires after storms, and helped look for the occasional missing child. Within a short period of time, membership increased to well over 15 volunteers, but by around 1983 would settle in at about 10 members, a number that the agency would average for the next 12 years.
At first ESDA had no real offices or other facility to operate from. They first used Frank Walsh's office at the Village Hall, as he worked full time for the public works department. Later they were assigned three small rooms in the basement of the village hall. These rooms were located next to the boiler room, making it extremely hot during the Winter months. One of the rooms, later remodeled into the director's office, had previously been a coal bin and could only be accessed by passing through the boiler room! The other rooms were made into a storage/turnout gear room and a radio room. Together these rooms totaled around 400 square feet. This would be ESDA's headquarters until they moved into the old village hall in 1993. Not only did ESDA get away from the hot boiler and musty basement, but tripled its space.
In March of 1999 Mokena ESDA purchased and installed our first true antenna tower to enhance communications in the E.O.C. Our main and back-up base radios, the Will County Willwarn 800mhz. radio, and our atmospheric weather station were all attached to it.
A year later ESDA received a retired 1980 Dodge Aspen police interceptor from the police department. ESDA personnel rewired the emergency lights and radio. In 1986 the army pick-up was disposed of after constant mechanical problems, and a second squad car, a 1983 Dodge Diplomat police interceptor was acquired. A year later ESDA again acquired another military truck donated from Romeoville ESDA. It was a 1952 Dodge Power Wagon "MASH" ambulance. It was outfitted with a generator, flood lights, a winch, and various hand tools.
The following year a private contractor donated a 1981 Ford E-150 van to the agency. After a lot of body work, repairs, and a rebuilt engine, it went into service as a mobile command van. In 1990 a 1986 Dodge Diplomat police interceptor was transferred from the police department and it took the place of the 1980 Dodge Aspen, which was retired from service. 1990 also saw the purchase of a used truck to replace the "MASH" ambulance. Purchased was a 1980 Chevrolet one ton 4x4 chassis with a utility body. It was repainted and outfitted with a generator, flood lights and other equipment.
In 1992 a 1989 Chevrolet Caprice police interceptor was transferred from the police department. It was initially assigned as the director's car and would later be reassigned as a third squad car. A year later another 1989 Caprice would be transferred to ESDA and would be assigned as a replacement for the 1983 Dodge Diplomat that would be retired from service.
In 1993, a completely retrofitted Ford 300 C.I. 45K LP powered generator was wired into the E.O.C. for automatically transferred power back-up.
Two vehicles would be replaced in 1995. The 1986 Dodge Diplomat would be replaced with a 1993 Chevrolet Caprice police interceptor. And the Ford van would be replaced with the agency's first true mobile command center, a 1986 Ford E-350 chassis with a Champion 16 passenger coach body. This vehicle was acquired from the regional transit authority and professionally refurbished and outfitted inside and out.
In 1996 two more Chevrolet Caprices, one 1992 model and one 1994 model were transferred from the police department and replaced the two 1989 Caprices. A traffic arrowboard trailer was constructed completely by ESDA members with an arrowboard donated by Warning Lights of Illinois of Addison, an old army trailer from state surplus, a donated diesel generator from the DuPage County Office of Emergency Management, and hundreds of hours of membership time. The Village Board provided funds in ESDA's 1997/1998 budget to purchase a new truck to replace the 1980 Chevrolet utility truck. This represents the first new vehicle acquisition for ESDA. Placed in service in May of 1998, the new truck is a 1998 Dodge 3500 4x4 chassis with a 11' utility body and a 25' flood light tower. Another vehicle acquisition that year was a 1985 Ford E-350 van ambulance donated by the Mokena Fire District. After repainting and other minor work, it was used as a support service vehicle.
By the beginning of 2000, ESDA had a fourth squad car, a 1996 Ford Crown Vic, outfitted for service and another being readied to replace our 1993 Chevy. A recently acquired Ford 4x4 for auxiliary light plant use and a golf cart for festivals, park, and special events were being outfitted.
ESDA veteran William Potocki served as Coordinator from October 11, 1999 until July 1, 2002 when Gregory K. McElyea was appointed by the Village of Mokena Board of Trustees to succeed him. Gary Miller joined Greg as Deputy Coordinator in 2008.
The high regard in which Mokena ESDA is held today by area public safety departments is due, in no small part, to the leadership, integrity, and example of former Coordinator Harold Damron, Jr. In his fourteen years of service [1985-1999] he personally responded to over 675 calls for Emergency Service. Now the Director of the Will County Office of Emergency Management, he enjoys the respect and gratitude not only of this Agency, but his community as well
Mokena Emergency Services & Disaster Agency