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Centerville sets disaster priorities

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City leaders took another step in their efforts for communitywide disaster preparation by brainstorming with local business owners this week.

At the conclusion of the four-hour session Tuesday, those involved agreed that the top priority should be improving communications with and education of the community at large. This would include City Hall employees, disaster organizations such as the Red Cross, local businesses and the general citizenry."We need to create a public awareness of the hazards," said Floyd Shoemaker, a regional trainer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "Then we can reduce the impact of a disaster."

FEMA recently granted $500,000 to Centerville as part of a nationwide disaster management program. One city in each state was selected for the inaugural program, based on their planned projects and disaster potential.

Although the money is only a one time gift, FEMA hopes that it plants the seeds for long-term, communitywide cooperation.

"We hope they can use it for a multiyear, multilayered program," Shoemaker said.

To make it work, however, no lone point man can make all of the decisions.

"This is a community program," he said. "This meeting gets everyone involved and builds partnerships."

Businesses are key for programs such as this, because they can help determine the economic feasibility of most projects, said Steve Thacker, Centerville's city manager.

"This is a new program and we're just feeling our way through it," Thacker said. "The fact we have so many people involved is really exciting."

Thacker also hoped that getting businesses involved would encourage them to help fund some projects, either with time, supplies or money. For example, he said a bank could provide a low-interest loan for a project, a hardware store could give a discount on supplies or a construction company could provide labor and equipment.

Although Centerville, thanks to the FEMA money, has become more aggressive about emergency preparation than many other cities, some people felt it would set an even greater standard.

"This is going to blossom into other areas," said Jerrianne Kolby, director of the Greater Salt Lake chapter of the Red Cross.

Most exciting was the inclusion of numerous entities.

"No one organization can do this separately," she said. "We all need to work together."