Cape selected for earthquake awareness program

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Federal Emergency Agency has selected Cape Girardeau as one of four cities to participate in an earthquake preparedness initiative aimed at business leaders and owners in at-risk areas.

Led by Safe America Foundation, an Atlanta-based not-for-profit organization and FEMA partner, QuakeSmart will encourage businesses to take actions that will mitigate or reduce damage to their buildings, provide greater safety for employees and customers and speed recovery in the event of an earthquake. This will be achieved through educational campaigns aimed at primarily small and emerging businesses.

"We recognize the importance of focusing on the business community because it has to learn how to lesson the impact of an earthquake's damage," said Henry Munford, executive vice president of development at Safe America Foundation. "Because most people are injured from nonstructural items flying around in the room than the actual building self-destructing, we are putting the emphasis on educating business owners about reducing the nonstructural damage."

The effort will begin with September community forums in Cape Girardeau, Monterey, Calif., Reno, Nev., and Evansville, Ind., to coincide with National Preparedness Month. The forums, conducted during a free luncheon, will feature experts who will address such topics as what small businesses can do before an earthquake strikes, mitigation resources for businesses and protecting investments in an earthquake-vulnerable area.

Cape Girardeau's luncheon, which will also include a presentation by David Maurstad, FEMA assistant administrator of the Mitigation Directorate, is scheduled for Sept. 18. Invitations for the event will be sent to all 1,275 members of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce. After the luncheon, Safe America Foundation will survey chamber members and decide where to expand its program beyond the four cities.

Munford said the chamber is the logical choice to serve as a hub for communicating Safe America's message.

"The chamber is a one-stop shop," Munford said. "Our organization has chosen not to go through individual businesses but rather through the chamber. We realize the chamber has all kinds of businesses and is the best representation of the community."

In addition to the on-site presentations, Safe America Foundation plans to advertise in local media outlets, distribute earthquake safety booklets and form a special task force of businesses that will encourage earthquake awareness in the community.

Munford said Cape Girardeau is the most challenging of the four cities selected because of the lack of a recent destructive earthquake. Qualifications of the four participants -- which were selected from 38 communities -- include a population of less than 1 million people, chamber size, area of commercial influence, an income-balanced population and previous preparedness programming.

Tracey Glenn, vice president of organization and leadership development at the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce, said the initiative is more than just earthquake education.

"This program is about helping businesses be prepared," Glenn said. "This is about the economic viability of the community. And it all starts with our businesses."

bblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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