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State plans database of shelters

Last modified: 7/29/2011 12:00:00 AM
AmeriCorps volunteers armed with measuring tape are spreading out across New Hampshire in hopes of helping the state do a better job of keeping people warm, cool and safe during severe weather or emergencies.

The Department of Health and Human Services' Emergency Services Unit is overseeing the project, which involves taking an inventory of all buildings that could be used as general shelters, reception centers, cooling stations or warming centers. The result will be a database that can be used by state and local emergency preparedness officials.

Rick Cricenti, director of the emergency services unit, said towns already are required to list possible shelters in their individual emergency preparedness plans, but the database project will consolidate all that information, and more. The AmeriCorps volunteers have been visiting the sites to take measurements and record information about parking, accessibility, backup power and other features.

'What we're doing is trying to follow up and get a database complete with all the information about their particular shelters, so that if we're in an emergency situation it becomes a little easier to understand the makeup of a shelter and the types of support we as a state may need to provide to the town as the event goes on,' he said.

For example, if the state has more information about the size of a particular town's school gymnasium, it can better anticipate that the town may need extra cots during an ice storm, he said.

State officials have had problems in the past getting detailed information about facilities in the middle of an emergency, Cricenti said, citing a February 2010 wind storm as an example. That storm caused more than $10 million in damage across six New Hampshire counties, blowing down trees and power lines and putting more than half the state in the dark.

'If you're scrambling to take care of people and get up and running, you don't want to talk to us on the phone. So we're trying to get ahead of the curve and get all that information ahead of time.'

Work began July 18 and is expected to end Aug. 18.


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