Emergencies occur across the country on a daily basis, but when a severe or prolonged disaster strikes, the demands on local emergency response organizations and healthcare facilities are extreme. In rural communities these demands can be overwhelming due to a lack of resources, especially when a sudden emergency occurs with no warning. The best way for rural communities to deal with these large-scale disasters effectively is by planning and preparing before an emergency happens.
Challenges Rural Communities Face
When preparing for a natural disaster or a mass attack it’s important for rural areas to understand the challenges they may face. According to Rural Health Info, rural residents, communities, local governments, and others involved in emergency response and preparedness face the following challenges:
- Resource limitations, such as equipment and supplies, training, and infrastructure
- Access to healthcare for higher levels of care
- Remoteness and geography
- Low population density
- Communication issues
As rural areas are known for having lower populations and are in more remote locations, there are limitations when it comes to resources such as emergency supplies as well as access to higher levels of healthcare.
When a rural community is preparing for and responding to an emergency, they depend heavily on assistance from healthcare facilities, local public health departments, law enforcement, fire departments, emergency medical services, and 9-1-1 dispatchers. A community can implement an emergency preparedness approach by assigning community members different tasks based on their strengths and abilities to assist in the case of an emergency.
Who Should Be Involved in Rural Emergency Preparedness and Response?
In a rural community, many community members should be involved with both emergency preparedness and emergency response. According to Rural Health Info, “Rural healthcare providers and organizations should be familiar with local-, regional-, and state-level emergency management systems. Building professional relationships with key personnel in various health-related or civic organizations and government agencies will better position rural healthcare providers to work effectively and efficiently in the event of a disaster.” These groups could include local and state health departments, primary care associations, behavioral health facilities, clinics, long-term care facilities, correctional facilities, law enforcement officials, first responders, and disaster relief agencies.
Community members can also participate in emergency planning efforts, receive training, and serve as response and recovery volunteers. FEMA has a great Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program which offers education and training in disaster response for community volunteers, Rural Health Info explains. Some of the trainings include; basic search and rescue, fire safety, disaster medical operations, and procedures for hazardous materials and terrorist incidents.
Communication Planning for Rural Communities
When a disaster strikes, communication is extremely important between 9-1-1 and first responders, healthcare facilities and their staff, and local governments with their residents. Having strategies in place for communicating and engaging with rural communities during both emergency preparedness planning as well as in the case of an emergency is key to keeping residents safe. Implementing a reliable mass notification system that is able to geo-locate areas that may be affected by a disaster is a great way to get alerts out to communities in danger. Rural Health Info provides the following communication resources for emergencies:
- Emergency Preparedness and Response, Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) Manual and Tools are offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Center for Preparedness and Response
- ASPR Technical Resources, Assistance Center, and Information Exchange (TRACIE) offers a variety of resources, tools, templates, and webinars to help rural communities build emergency preparedness coalitions
- Public Health Communications is available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
- Rural Risk Communication Toolkit offers fillable templates and printed materials and was developed by Southeast Health District in Georgia
- Social Media Preparedness Toolkits and Preparedness Videos are public service advertisements from Ready.gov
How Could Technology Help Rural Emergency Response
In a rural area state and local governments ultimately want their community to stay safe and feel secure. By implementing helpful technologies to streamline emergency communications, towns, cities, counties, and entire states have seen improved response times and have made sure the right messages have gotten to the right people clearly and concisely.
A mass notification system is a helpful technology for rural areas when it comes to alerting groups of an emergency. Eaton County, a mostly rural county, has a surprisingly high population and the several tight diverse communities need different notifications for varying needs. When they were looking for a mass notification system some of the features they wanted included geo-targeting, segmenting, and scaling. They also wanted to make sure residents could select the alerts they wanted to receive to prevent alert fatigue. Luckily, they found their solution.
One technology that has proven to be extremely useful is a platform that provides 9-1-1 telecommunicators and first responders powerful capabilities for handling, dispatching, and responding to emergency calls more efficiently. The Rave 911 Suite has incredible features that allow for community engagement, two-way text messaging, improved e911 location tracking, and more!
you may also like
If Your School is Hit by Ransomware, How Can You Communicate?
December 05, 2019
It is being reported that an increasing number of schools and school districts are being hit by ransomware attacks - crippling essential systems used by students and the...