I live in a very rural region of the State of Illinois. Many in my area call our area Southern Illinois even though the term ‘southern’ isn’t legally or officially a part of the region’s actual name. Southern Illinois is known for being rural. Some of our largest communities, in which many of us consider as cities are under 100,000 residents. The town I live in for example, officially an incorporated city has under 1,000 residents. While southern Illinois brings the state quite a bit of critical infrastructure from major international manufacturing facilities to important federal and state correctional facilities, munition manufacturing and more – the entire region is still considered very rural. Most of the bottom portion of the region hosts the largest forest in the State of Illinois and all 8 designated wilderness boundaries. Southern Illinois is very rural, indeed.

Now the purpose of my relaying the information above is in part of the theme of this articles itself – disaster and preparedness coalitions in rural and remote environments.

 

What is a Disaster or Preparedness Coalition?

Understanding what a disaster or preparedness coalition is, should be a critical aspect of emergency management as a whole. This is because the new model of emergency management, on a nation-wide spectrum, is Whole Community. Whole Community is an approach where EVERYONE and I mean EVERYONE works together to prepare for, mitigate, and respond to and recovery from disasters. If everyone participates, the success rate of a completion is more possible than if everyone did not participate. Now with that being said, the main objectives of Whole Community will evolve more around preparedness than any of the other functions of emergency management and disaster services. With a coalition dedicated to preparedness and disaster management, this enables multiple agencies, entities and persons to assist their local regions in emergency management situations and therefore promotes the approach to Whole Community preparedness.

 

Help, Join and Teach…

The three main objectives of any sort of preparedness or disaster coalition organization should be to help the communities in their region, allow people and agencies to join the campaign and to teach the communities about the importance of preparedness and disaster management.

A disaster or preparedness coalition should be created with the goal of helping communities within the region to prepare and respond to disasters. In a rural region where personnel, skills, resources and budgets are quite limited – communities involved really need all the help they can get. The best way to make this possible is to rely on the stakeholders within a community (government, businesses, organizations, residents, etc.) and to also rely on other communities neighboring one and other – we need to be helping one and other, especially in rural environments where we tend to see one and other as part of a large family.

Allowing communities, departments, businesses, organizations and even normal citizens of various communities throughout the region to join together as one within a preparedness ort disaster coalition is going to be the most effective manner of forming the organization. People who are concerned. People who will be impacted by disaster. People who have the subject matter expertise, experience, skill and resources to help – all of these people and entities should be welcomed into the coalition with open arms. If someone isn’t allowed in simply because they are not “official” – there could be a major problem with the coalition and the wrong direction that it is taking.

A preparedness or disaster coalition should carry the main function of teaching everyone within the community the importance of and the methods and tactics of community preparedness. We all cannot be completely prepared unless we are always taught about how and why we should be preparing for a major incident. Try an experiment if you will, ask random people in your community about how they would respond to a disaster incident that would be common and relevant to your local area. Analyze their response and determine how taught these folks are when it comes to personal disaster preparedness. Now ask a child the same thing. Ask a senior citizen. Ask a volunteer public safety official – compare your notes and determine then how important it is for us to be teaching others about preparedness and disaster management.

 

Coalitions should welcome any skill they can find!

I’ll be blunt, I have more education in emergency management than I have experience. This is why I am really unknown in the emergency management community at this time. However, my skills mainly range in content distribution through what I have learned, what I continue to learn and my passion for serving emergency management functions in rural and remote capacities. But even though I am now well-known in the local and national emergency management systems, I still get welcomed in my local preparedness organization. I am a content writer for Shawnee Preparedness and Response Coalition, a southern Illinois public healthcare and disaster management coalition. Sure, I might not be managing aspects of disaster management in my region but I am utilizing my education and research skills to disseminate content through the coalition so that the people on my area can learn from it and better prepare themselves for a major incident. Everyone has some kind of skill and their skill can benefit such an organization but most of the time, the organization and its officials need to make the first step of finding these skilled people.

Thank you for reading my latest article about the importance of having a preparedness or disaster coalition in your region. This sort of organization can easily apply to both rural and larger communities all across the nation and even across the world. Please share this article with others and especially on social media if you have enjoyed reading it. I encourage you to leave a comment below adding to the article and the importance of creating these local coalitions.

About the Author

Shawn J. Gossman
Shawn J. GossmanB.S., M.S., M.B.A., SEM, PDS
Shawn J. Gossman is an article and publication contributor of rural and remote-based emergency management, continuity and public health topics. Shawn holds a Master of Science concentrating in Emergency Management and a MBA in Hazardous Environment Logistics and Supply Chain Management. Shawn is dedicated to helping rural communities and organizations be a part of the Whole Community approach of National Preparedness.