Walking around the Taste of Chicago, Office of Emergency Management and Communications First Deputy Rich Guidice said the job is a “way of life.”
Guidice, second in command at OEMC to Executive Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau, is responsible for day-to-day operations at the agency of about 2,500 people, which coordinates public safety during major events in the city. Four managing deputies — traffic management authority, dispatch operations, administration and public safety IT — report to him.
OEMC manages incidents, coordinates events, operates communications systems, and provides technology through departments such as the 911 dispatch center, 311 city services, traffic management authority and public safety IT.
Guidice has worked for the city of Chicago in various departments for nearly three decades. He started in a construction position at the Chicago Board of Education, and also had a stint in operations at the mayor’s office under Mayor Richard M. Daley. He’s been at OEMC since 2005.
“We have 250 miles of Chicago to keep an eye on,” the 29-year city employee said. “Taste of Chicago is a spectacular event, but it’s not the only thing going on in the city today. We have day-to-day operations, at any given time we could have between 13,000 or 15,000 calls a day coming into our 911 center and another 8,000 calls coming into our 311 center.”
He starts every day with a 5:30 a.m. phone call — 7 a.m. on the weekends — to inform him of what happened overnight, so he’s “not caught off guard.” Carrying a scanner radio with him everywhere he goes, Guidice said he never wants to turn on the news and find out information he should have gotten firsthand.
Often he even gets called in the middle of the night, noting that, for example, he was woken up when 13 people, including a 3-year-old boy, were shot in Cornell Square Park in September 2013.
“It’s a commitment. It’s a 100 percent commitment, and I’ll tell you that having this job your phone will not stop ringing,” he said. “Don’t expect to sleep at nighttime, you will not get a full night’s rest in this job. A lot of public safety jobs — the police department and the fire department are getting the same calls that we’re getting — but it will keep you up at night.”
OEMC also coordinates major events in the city if more than one agency becomes involved, such as the Department of Streets and Sanitation or even Illinois State Police or the FBI. Those events could range from protests, music festivals and parades, to major weather events or emergency situations.
“We bring everybody to the table to make sure that we have the best possible plan that we can put on paper and put toward any event. … Our bench is deep when it comes to public safety planning in the city of Chicago,” he said, adding the agency regularly hosts workshops — 17 in 2017 — with an aim to increase emergency preparedness.
“Whether it was vehicle ramming an active shooter, whatever type of threat happened around the world or another part of the country, we come back here, we bring it home and we mimic the event, how we would handle it, how we would prepare for it,” he said.
The lifelong Chicagoan, who will celebrate his 50th birthday in August, grew up in Humboldt Park and now lives on Lake Shore Drive in the Loop.