Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Safety Zones Offer Fans Help, Haven from Weekend Hoopla; Six Areas Will Provide 'Comfort in an Unknown Area' Friday, Saturday

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Safety Zones Offer Fans Help, Haven from Weekend Hoopla; Six Areas Will Provide 'Comfort in an Unknown Area' Friday, Saturday

Article excerpt

Byline: Derek Gilliam

A safe harbor among thousands of storming feet, Sideline Safety Zones offer Georgia-Florida game attendees directions when lost, first aid if injured or even a charge for a dying cell phone, a city official said.

Tonisha Landry-Gaines, city of Jacksonville's special events director, said the safety zones first appeared in 2006 with the cooperation of both the University of Florida and the University of Georgia.

The zones were in response to the alcohol-fueled deaths of two UF students. One died in 2004 after falling from a parking garage. Another died the next year when he was beaten on Water Street by five Jacksonville area men.

Landry-Gaines said she joined city government in 2011 and didn't know of particular incidents that led to the creation of the zones.

She said the zones offer "anything that will help a traveler feel comfortable in a unknown area," including water, snacks, directions and first aid. Also, Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office officials are near the zones to offer assistance if needed.

Melissa Bujeda, spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office, wouldn't comment on police preparation for the game, citing exemptions to Florida open-records laws regarding security plans. She would only confirm there would be an increased police presence as with all other major events.

The Jacksonville Landing houses one of the safety zones. Janice Lowe, general manager of The Landing, said this will be the 27th year the destination has hosted events for the Georgia-Florida game. She said planning for the week's events began six months ago and she works with city officials, police and fire-rescue department officials to ensure safety of visitors.

"Each year you can tweak it a little bit to make it better," she said.

This year additional lighting was added to the east and west breezeways, she said. Also, Lowe said pathways have been cleared of tables and chairs to accommodate the crowds . …

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