A federally funded program based at Eastern Kentucky University is helping rural communities across the country prepare for emergencies and disasters. Consortium director Amy Hughes says the program is meeting a real need.
“Rural responders only have 8 to 16 hours available for training. They very rarely can leave their community for an extended period of time to take training in another location, so we pride ourselves in being able to take good quality training, deliver it in the time frame they have available and bring it to their location,” said Hughes.
Rural communities face unique needs when it comes to responding to emergencies or disasters. There’s a shortage of funds and resources. A second challenge is distance.
“When you talk about response to a hazardous materials event in a rural area your hazmat team may not be 30 minutes away…it may be two hours, it may be four hours away. So there’s a time period when that community is going to have to cope with the results of an incident and wait for resources, specialized resources to come in and assist with the response,” said Hughes.
Two of the more popular courses are event security planning and dealing with the media. The most attended course last year dealt with crisis management for school-based incidents.
“This class is unique in that it brings together local law enforcement and other first responders as well as school administrators, staff, teachers, those who are the first line responders to an event like that, into the classroom together to train together. And what we found is that, interaction between those two disciplines that don’t always talk, is invaluable,” said Hughes.
EKU, as well as colleges and universities in Iowa, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina and Ohio develop the courses. More than 20-thousand first responders in the U-S and its territories have attended training courses since the program began in 2004.