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Purdue Extension launches new emergency preparedness resource for rural communities

Purdue Extension has launched the Purdue Rural Emergency Preparedness program (IN-PREP), a statewide program devoted to preparing rural 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. IN-PREP will be represented with a booth at the Indiana State Fair in the Agriculture Horticulture Building through 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” said Shawn Ehlers, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering and IN-PREP program leader.

IN-PREP cultivates relationships with major state and national organizations like the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Indiana Board of Animal Health so they can efficiently relay information to stakeholders, educators and emergency responders.

“When a crisis occurs it can be very chaotic and there can be a lot of misinformation flying around,” Ehlers said. “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.”

A major component of the IN-PREP program is the website, which will serve as a hub of information and resources for all 92 counties. 

“Purdue Extension has a long history of serving Indiana’s rural communities,” said Jason Henderson, director of Purdue Extension. “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.” 

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