Chichester, L. & Emm, S. 2019, Does Cooperative Extension Have a Role to Play in County Emergency Management and/or Disaster Preparedness? , Journal of the National Association of County Agriculture Agents, Vol12, Iss2, Dec. 2019

While Extension faculty may have the knowledge and skills to be an asset to the county or local emergency management and/or disaster preparedness teams, they may not be collaborating with the local authorities prior to a major crisis event. This role varies from seats on committees and boards to providing resources, to taking over responsibility of an entire segment of the town population. Instigating these conversations with the emergency managers, the Sheriffs, and the Fire Chiefs in these communities was the first step of what appears to be a plan for long-term collaboration.

Introduction

Emergency management has evolved as a planning effort at the local, state, and national level.  The local level begins the process by evaluating the resources available to them and planning what resources they would need from the state or national level.  There was a National Governor’s Association study completed in the late 1970s that recognized a model based on four different phases (Petak, 1985) that is widely used today.  The model focuses on the following:

  •  Mitigation – Assessment to minimize risk.
  •  Preparedness – A response plan based on training of response personnel, resource availability, sharing of jurisdictional resources, and detail of collaboration responsibilities.
  • Response – Implementing the plan, reduce secondary damage, and plan for the recovery phase.'
  • Recovery – Reestablishing life support systems (power, water, networks, etc.).

This model is generally accepted among emergency managers and researchers (Waugh & Streib, 2006).  Most emergency management and/or disaster preparedness planning happens before an event occurs and is based on preconceived ideas of what will or may happen.  As the Western United States faces more emergency disasters and disasters of larger magnitude, more and more is being learned on efficient and effective emergency management planning and training.

The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established the Cooperative Extension Service, which is connected to the land-grant Universities, to work with local communities in agriculture, home economics, public policy, 4-H, and leadership (National Archives Foundation, 2019; Seevers et al., 1997). Cooperative Extension work has evolved over 100 years to meet the modern-day needs of local communities.  Extension’s role in Nevada and California emergency management for the planning, preparedness, and response to natural disasters was a discussion in a multi-state meeting held in Reno, Nevada in May of 2019.  A team of Extension professionals began discussing what they thought was their role was in emergency management and/or disaster preparedness by County.  There were several unknowns as to how and where emergency planning and/or disaster preparedness was occurring in every county, or at a multi-state and multi-jurisdiction area.  There were also unknowns as to how Extension was or was not collaborating in emergency management and/or disaster preparedness.

Historically, the local and/or county government has provided responsibility to prepare for natural hazards and natural disasters, with the goal of protecting human life, property, and quality of life.  Partnerships and local collaboration needs for emergency management are becoming more apparent as many communities in the Western United States face natural disasters such as wildfires, floods, and earthquakes. Nevada, California, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands are in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region IX. The states and counties in this region plan for disasters related to weather to include hurricanes, typhoons and other storms that cause flooding, flash flooding and landslides throughout the region. Also, increasing temperatures (on land and water), changing weather patterns, and increases in storm intensity has resulted in an increase of natural disasters that are impacting local communities (IPCC, 2019).

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