Skip to main content

Emergency Preparedness and Response

Disasters can happen anywhere and anytime. Communities can cope with disaster by planning and preparing in advance and working together as a team.

As stated in the Office of Rural Health Policy’s document, Rural Communities and Emergency Preparedness, adequate emergency preparedness in rural communities depends on public health departments, hospitals, and emergency medical services providers. Rural public health departments tend to have less capacity and resources than their urban counterparts. Some hospitals, which are the center of health planning, activity, and resources in rural communities, have been downsized in an effort to contain costs and, as a result, rural hospitals lack surge capacity for personnel and beds. Rural EMS often relies on volunteers and may lack funding and adequate equipment.

Rural communities face challenges regarding emergency management. These include resource limitations, remoteness, separation, low population density, and communication issues.

Sources: Rural Communities and Emergency Preparedness (2002); Challenges of Rural Emergency Management (2009)


State Homeland Security Contacts

State Offices and Agencies of Emergency Management

There are more organizations related to Emergency Preparedness and Response in the organizations section.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between emergency preparedness and emergency response?

Emergency preparedness refers to actions which can and should be performed prior to an emergency, such as planning and coordination meetings, procedure writing, team training, emergency drills and exercises, and prepositioning of emergency equipment. Emergency response refers to actions taken in response to an actual, ongoing event.

What are some of the challenges of rural emergency management?

There are several challenges in rural communities regarding emergency preparedness and response. These include lack of or low funding of rural volunteer fire stations and emergency departments, long travel distances between residents and emergency personnel resulting in longer response times, and out-migration of young people resulting in workforce and staffing issues. Additional rural emergency management challenges are discussed in “Challenges of Rural Emergency Management”, by Dianna Bryant.

What does shelter in place mean?

Sheltering in place is one of several response options available to emergency management directors to provide an additional level of protection in the event of an emergency. Shelter in place is a protective action designed to use an indoor facility, such as a person's home or a public building, and its indoor atmosphere to shield people from a hazardous outdoor environment. Sheltering in place means persons will remain in a building until emergency management officials issue additional instructions or declare that the emergency condition has ended. It is a short-term option for limiting the potential exposure of persons to hazards that may be present in the outdoor environment. It will most likely be a matter of hours, not days.

Information can be found on websites dealing with preparedness, such as

What is CERT?

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.