Rural Emergency Preparedness and Response

From the Rural Health Information Hub: For More Info, Go Here…

When emergencies happen in rural communities, especially disasters that are severe or prolonged, the demands on local response agencies and healthcare facilities can quickly consume available resources. Disasters have complex effects, whether they are natural or man-made, and can occur without warning.

Rural communities can deal more effectively with large-scale emergencies by planning and preparing for emergencies before they happen. Rural residents, communities, local governments, and others involved in emergency preparedness and response face challenges that can include:

  • 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 stated in the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy’s document Rural Communities and Emergency Preparedness, rural communities preparing for and responding to emergencies depend on assistance from healthcare facilities, local public health departments, law enforcement, fire departments, and emergency medical services (EMS). Some rural areas lack local public health departments and instead rely on state public health agencies. Where rural local public health departments do exist, many operate with small budgets and limited staffing. Similarly, many rural hospitals face their own financial challenges and resource constraints. As a result, rural local public health departments and hospitals may lack the capabilities to respond adequately to emergencies, leaving communities vulnerable. Rural residents can collectively decide to implement a whole community approach to emergency preparedness and assign community members’ tasks and responsibilities based on knowledge, strengths, and abilities. For more information and resources on rural public health agencies and the challenges they face, see RHIhub’s Rural Public Health Agencies topic guide.

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