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How Purdue Extension is helping Hoosiers respond to emergencies

Purdue Extension has a long history of serving rural communities across Indiana and Extension’s newest initiative exemplifies this tradition.

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On Aug. 12, Extension will launch the Purdue Rural Emergency Preparedness program (IN-PREP), a statewide program devoted to preparing rural Hoosier communities for emergencies and disaster relief. The initiative will focus on several different facets of disaster relief, including the dissemination of information, instruction for rural first-responders and training of Extension educators. The launch will take place at the Indiana State Fair, where fairgoers can learn more about the program from a booth in the Agriculture Horticulture Building until Aug. 14.

“We’re seeing a transition in rural areas. Historically, volunteer first-responders in rural areas had familiarity or some level of agricultural background. Now we see many first-responders don’t have that background or the necessary Ag-specific training, and it can be overwhelming when they respond to emergencies at a farm or in a rural area, given the diversity of hazards found in agriculture” Shawn Ehlers, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering and IN-PREP program leader, said.

IN-PREP is a multi-faceted program that seeks to prepare Hoosiers in different ways for any type of local, state or national emergency.

Visit the new IN-PREP website at: https://extension.purdue.edu/INPREPared/.

Ehlers said IN-PREP has a strong relationship with organizations like National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the IN Board of Animal Health (BOAH) so they can efficiently relay information to stakeholders, educators and emergency responders. IN-PREP will also offer training to Extension educators regarding emergency relief and the different methods to prepare rural communities.

“For example, we’re providing information about go-bags, how to pre-pack a bag that’s kept on hand in case of a sudden emergency,” Ehlers explained. “Our website will also host a number of different resources regarding care of animals in the instance of a disaster or emergency.”

Ehlers said the program will continue to grow as awareness spreads and educators receive training to share with their communities. This will be reflected on the website, which will host a growing catalog of resources and up-to-date information, and in the support provided by Extension in each county.

“Purdue Extension has a long history of serving Indiana’s rural communities,” Jason Henderson, director of Purdue Extension said. “The network of Extension educators and specialists across the state allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of our rural communities. Extension is here to help communities be resilient in the face of disaster. We’re excited to launch IN-PREP at the Indiana State Fair and watch its capabilities expand in the coming years.”

Fast access to information and preparedness can help people stay calm in the midst of crisis, which can save lives and livelihoods. In that way, Ehlers said, IN-PREP illustrates the mission of Extension.

“When crises happen it can be very chaotic and there can be a lot of misinformation flying around,” Ehlers explained. “Our goal is not to reinvent the wheel. What we are trying to do is organize and have materials available to educators and the public. For example, if African swine fever ever comes here, which hopefully it won’t, our partnership with BOAH ensures we can amplify their messages to share information very quickly.”

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