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Gazette Premium Content El Paso County expecting grants to prepare for disasters

By Jakob Rodgers Published: July 23, 2013

El Paso County Public Health officials expect to receive nearly a half-million dollars in grants over the next year to prepare for disasters that could hit the Pikes Peak region.

The grants announced Monday were among $14.6 million in federal monies to health departments, hospitals and nonprofit organizations across the state. They are part of a decade-long program created after the 9/11 attacks to better prepare communities for emergencies and disasters.

About $460,000 of the grant money will be spent in El Paso County, which has faced two of the state's costliest natural disasters on record with the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire and this summer's Black Forest fire, said Lyle Moore, director of the state's office of emergency preparedness and response.

Much of the funding will be used for training programs or massive table-top exercises that bring together officials from agencies across the region, said Jill Law, El Paso County Public Health's director.

"You just never know when you'll have a true emergency, so we just practice, practice, practice," Law said.

Elsewhere across the state, the money will be used for myriad programs - some of which will be aimed at addressing wildfires that have plagued the state.

For example, public health officials plan to expand a program piloted in Colorado Springs featuring "I'm not scared if I'm prepared" backpacks. Roughly 5,000 of the backpacks - which feature flashlights and suggestions for preparing for disasters - were distributed to children affected by the Waldo Canyon fire by a team of counselors from AspenPointe.

The nonprofit organization specializing in behavioral health care also received $32,000 in Monday's announcement. St. Francis Medical Center, as well as Memorial Central, Memorial North, Penrose and hospitals, also were named as recipients of up to $19,000 each.

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Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter @jakobrodgers

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