Purdue Extension responds well in times of disaster. Many educators provided information as needed after the September attack. Even while responding, others asked what more they could do. The following list is provided as a guide for you to explore your options to respond to or plan ahead for community disasters.
Much of this information is in line with EDEN guidelines, but how we react varies from state to state and county to county. While one educator may do some or all of these items listed below, it is critical that all educators discuss the roles to provide clear understanding of office/staff expectations.
Know the role of your office in your county in case of a declared disaster, consider state and county rules. For example, in a Governor declared disaster, Purdue Extension Educators have a specific role to fill.
In many other cases, Purdue Extension serves an educational role. The topics for which Purdue Extension can provide information include (but not limited to): Water quality and safety, human health and safety information, animal safety, food safety, problem solving, land use, water quality, and biohazard information.
Know who to contact. It is important for Extension Educators to make partnerships with key people in the health and safety, policy and disaster response areas. Check with the following groups:
- Local Emergency Planning Commission (LEPC): See if they are active and who the members are. In many cases, Purdue Extension educators may still be active or on the list to serve. More than likely, this group would welcome your expertise.
- Rural Health Assocation/Network: Take the time to know who is in charge of the board of health in your community. You may want to make a phone call to let them know you can facilitate and provide education.
- Law enforcement: take the time to know your State Police, county sherriff and muncipal law enforcement representatives.
- Fire: know your township and city fire representatives.
- American Red Cross: Find out if you have representatives in your community and learn what they have to offer.
- County commissioners: make sure they know the role of Purdue Extension in your county if a disaster occurs.
The news media can be fantastic during a disaster in helping you get information across to the public. Once you have defined your role, and you know your message(s), work with the media. If you plan in advance, you can help the news media know what information you can supply before, during or after a disaster. During the disaster, the news media may be the best way to reach the public. Also consider schools, churches, and shelters. Be sure to build media relations in conjunction with the partners you have identified above.
Understand the value of location. In other states, where major floods or other disasters have occurred, the Extension office often becomes a staging ground for state and federal agencies when there were no other facilities available from county or municipal resources. Plan ahead for potential meeting facilitation (before, during or after a disaster). Know of other facilities available in case of emergency. Consider a memorandum of agreement between the appropriate parties for fairgrounds and other facilities.
Understand the importance of timeliness and relevance. As dictated by your emergency coordinators and by circumstances created by the emergency, provide educational information and facilitation for response. Keep administration informed of all operations and actions relative to emergency actions.
Be responsive to the public. Be sure you follow the chain of command!! In a declared emergency, someone will be declared the person in charge. For example, at the State Level, the director of the State Emergency Management Agency is in charge in a Governor declared emergency. State and local agencies fall in line under this command. It is very important to keep the appropriate person in your county informed about your capability and limitations. They will be giving instructions on how to proceed.
Know who has what. When emergencies have occurred, Purdue Extension educators have provided contacts for supplies and services. Build inventory lists of what supplies your office has, including cell phones, laptop computers, high-speed duplicators, etc. Also build inventory lists of materials and services that might be available in any emergency. In addition to knowing the major suppliers of goods and services, such as the local hardware store and food pantry, create a community contact sheet for generators to vans and trucks and people who can help in an emergency. Work with the partnerships you have already established.