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Preparations Ramping Up For Chicago Air & Water Show

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The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over the Chicago lakefront on Aug. 18, 2011, in a rehearsal of their aerobatics display during the 2011 Chicago Air & Water Show. (Credit: CBS)

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over the Chicago lakefront on Aug. 18, 2011, in a rehearsal of their aerobatics display during the 2011 Chicago Air & Water Show. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – If you were in the downtown area Thursday afternoon, you probably couldn’t help noticing plenty of jets screaming overhead.

It’s that time of year again. The Chicago Air & Water Show is this weekend. Thursday was just a practice run for the biggest stars of the show, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports


More than a million people and perhaps as many as 2 million people will pack the lakefront on Saturday and Sunday from Oak Street beach up to Fullerton and Belmont to watch the show.

CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports on the security plans the city has in place to deal with the large crowds.

The Chicago Fire Department will have bike teams, Segways and ambulances strategically placed along the lakefront for quick response. They’ll also have a few other high-tech items they’ll be using with the goal of keeping everyone safe.

As the Chicago Air & Water Show crowds converge on the city’s lakefront, the Chicago Fire Department’s Unified Incident Command Post will be in full operation. The command truck is the nerve center for all of the city’s emergency response units.

“We have the unified command table there, with phones, where the police, fire and OEMC (Office of Emergency Management and Communications) will all be working together, in conjunction with the sponsors of the air show and the park district and the mayor’s office,” Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner Marc Levison said.

Cameras atop the command post provide a bird’s eye view of lakefront activity.

“If there’s an emergency we’ll use the camera, check out the crowds, make sure all the pedestrians and visitors here stay safe during their visit for the Air Show,” Levison said.

A satellite dish atop the command post also serves a special purpose.

“We can get feed from the helicopter in here if we need it, from the helicopter from the air,” Levison said.

Chicago Fire Department paramedics also have Gator Med Carts at their disposal. The vehicle is equipped with tires that allow it to navigate the lakefront beaches.

“It can go over hills, small hills, along grass, up stairs, along the pathway,” Levison said. “Everything we have on an ambulance, we bring on the med cart. We have a lifepack 12, full defibrillator, cardiac monitor. We have all our medications in a quick response bag.”

With more than one million people expected along the lakefront, crowds can create problems when trying to fight a fire, but not if you have a CFD fire cart. It’s a mini fire truck that hauls 60 gallons of water and 10 gallons of fire suppressing foam.

“With the amount of traffic, it’s going to be difficult getting fire trucks in here. We already have one (fire cart) on site,” Fire Department spokesman Quention Curtis said.

For the first time this year, the city has posted numbers on all the light poles along the lakefront from Fullerton to Oak Street Beach. It’s an extra layer of security for emergency response. Those calling 911 will be asked what number they see on the nearest light pole to help pinpoint their location.

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