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If disaster strikes, it pays to be prepared


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 6, 2001

CROSS CREEK -- When natural disasters and large-scale emergencies strike, an evacuation strategy can reduce the risk of serious injury.

Few places require planning as much as New Tampa, where Bruce B. Downs Boulevard is the only viable means of escape. It has four lanes, two in each direction. Residents will have an opportunity to learn how to prepare at an upcoming meeting to kick off the New Tampa Emergency Preparedness Committee.

"If we should have a tornado, a hurricane, an explosion or a five-car pile-up, what should we do?" said Carol Poland, a crime watch leader who helped organize the meeting. "We have no plans out here. We have one road going north and south."

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the New Tampa Library and will feature guests from all the major public safety agencies.

Poland helped organize the committee two months ago after speaking with Terry Jones, a deputy chief with Tampa Fire Rescue.

"Residents there are interested in an evacuation plan," said Jones, who plans to be at the meeting. "It's going to be challenging to say the least. We have to come up with something, because the residents deserve it up there. We are going to brainstorm and round table, using all our knowledge."

Jones will be joined by representatives from Tampa Police Department, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue and both the county and city emergency management teams.

"It's smart for citizens to be concerned and do some preplanning," said Larry Gispert, Hillsborough's emergency manager. In Florida, most people worry only about hurricanes, he said, and assume that living inland will keep them immune from natural disasters.

"All kinds of weather events, sinkholes and things can affect you," he said.

-- If you have news about New Tampa, call Michael Sandler at 813-226-3472.

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