By Steve Zoski, Daily News Editor
Published July 8, 2012
Last Tuesday, the University announced an agreement with the American Red Cross allowing designated University buildings to be used as emergency shelters for Ann Arbor and other nearby areas.
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The University’s Office of Emergency Preparedness and the Red Cross have yet to determine which buildings will be used.
In an interview, University Emergency Manager Andy Burchfield said the agreement came after the University and the Red Cross identified the need for an emergency plan.
“They actually approached us with an interest in increasing the number of shelters that they could have available to them for emergency sheltering for the community as a whole, so it’s much broader than just U of M,” Burchfield said. “From the American Red Cross standpoint, they’re looking at it for a shelter of the community — citizens within Washtenaw County and even Lenawee County.”
Burchfield said the agreement will allow for an efficient and legally sound plan to come in place.
“There have been discussions ongoing for actually quite a while, and we were able to finally formalize something with them that allows for them to keep in touch with us in the event that they need sheltering and they have the ability to use some of our facilities,” Burchfield said.
Burchfield said the Red Cross already has shelters in the Ann Arbor area but looked to the University for extra space.
However, Burchfield noted that the sheltering would primarily be used for people outside the University community.
“From a campus standpoint, the student population, (their) coordination is done between our office and the Division of Student Affairs … for the most part (we) have the capacity between the resources that we already have,” Burchfield said. “We’ve come to an agreement with the American Red Cross that is specific to the outside population.”
Burchfield said the agreement was a good step for the University’s rapport with the Red Cross.
“It continues to further enhance our relationship and our partnership with such an important organization as the American Red Cross.”
In a press release issued by the Red Cross, Jim Kosteva, the University’s community relations director, said the agreement could reduce suffering.
“If suddenly a couple of hundred people and families needed immediate shelter, we don’t want to add more suffering to their circumstance by having to wait for an authorization request to move through channels,” Kosteva said. “The University of Michigan is prepared to help and offer its facilities as needed now.”