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Article updated: 4/24/2013 10:03 PM

Elgin plans disaster preparedness expo

By Elena Ferrarin

Elgin residents will have the chance to learn about disaster preparedness at an expo, tentatively set to be held in late June at The Centre of Elgin, officials said.

The Elgin City Council's special committee unanimously voted Wednesday to accept a $10,000 grant from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to host a Community Resiliency/Disaster Preparedness Expo. Councilman Robert Gilliam was absent.

Elgin Police Sgt. Dennis Hood, Elgin's emergency management director, said his department will be working diligently to make it all happen quickly. The terms of the grant dictate the expo must take place by the end of June, he said.

"It's very quick, but we're getting assistance from IEMA. They are helping us so we know what we can use the funds for exactly," he said.

The expo will feature vendors and businesses that deal with disaster preparedness, as well as religious and health organizations that can assist in an emergency, Hood said.

That means anything from floods to tornadoes and chemical spills, all the way to terrorism, he said.

"We want ideally everyone in the city to know what to do to prepare and what to do to recover" in case of disaster, he said.

Some of the grant money also will be used for educational materials for a "disaster preparedness mobile classroom" that will go into the community -- think parks, schools, churches, and more -- to disseminate information, Hood said.

Karen Flanagan, Elgin's emergency management coordinator, said volunteers from the Elgin Citizens Corps Council will be instrumental in getting the message out. The group comprises about 75 active volunteers, she said.

"The message is, 'The goal is to take care of self, family and neighborhood,'" she said.

The materials will be tailored to specific audiences, including students, seniors, non-English speaking residents, people with special needs, and more, she said.

The mobile classroom will also coordinate drills upon requests from businesses.

The program will initially use a city vehicle, although Hood said he hopes to find grant funding to buy a van that would be used much like radio stations use vans to visit communities.

The van should also be modular, so it can be used in the field during an emergency, he added.

"The idea is to be able to create a duplicatable program, so that other cities and municipalities can execute it as well," he said.

Anyone interested in volunteering or participating in the expo should contact Karen Flanagan, Elgin's emergency management coordinator, at (847) 289-2533 or flanagan_k@cityofelgin.org.

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