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After A Disaster, New Program Asks Residents To Grab Supplies And Walk To School

Nicole Nixon / KUER

Salt Lake County’s public elementary schools are now designated safe zones in the event of an earthquake or natural disaster. A new program will turn the schools into neighborhood organizing centers during an emergency.

County officials say after a disaster, families should grab their emergency supply kits and check in at the nearest elementary school. Coordinators can help unite separated families and each facility will have a box containing neighborhood maps and basic instructions for assessing damage.

“The program and the kit is designed so that a lay person with no training can come in and start providing leadership, organization and support to themselves and their neighbors,” said Clint Mecham, battalion chief with Salt Lake County Emergency Management.

Mecham says the SAFE Neighborhoods program will help take some pressure off of first responders.

“This program has been developed in order to help our neighbors and our citizens help themselves,” he said. “By helping themselves, they help us.”

The program was first implemented in the Salt Lake City School District, but has now been implemented at every elementary school in Salt Lake County.

Organizers say middle and high schools will be kept for sheltering disaster victims, while the smaller and more prevalent elementary schools are ideal for organizing residents who may not have extensive home damage.

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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