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Rural Health Information Hub

Rural Assets for Emergency Preparedness and Response

As small, often tight-knit communities, rural areas have built-in strengths that help them in emergency preparedness and response.

Strong Sense of Community

Community members and organizations collaborate to aid in response efforts. In rural areas, local businesses, faith-based organizations, and veterans are common collaborators and volunteers. Rural communities often have a strong willingness to support and care for one another.

Case Study

Bomb Cyclone Flood in Eastern Nebraska
After intense flooding forced the residents of North Bend, Nebraska, to evacuate, families living in higher elevations not affected by the flooding opened their doors to evacuees. Others were instructed to go to the local high school, then subsequently evacuated to Snyder, a neighboring small town. There, they were welcomed with cots, blankets, and temporary shelter at a community ballroom. Community efforts were crucial to recovery too. Neighbors helped one another, and volunteers arrived from other Nebraska communities as well as neighboring states.

Involved Healthcare Leadership and Providers

Healthcare leaders and providers in rural communities are often members of the community they serve. Since they are familiar with the local community, they are well-positioned to collaborate and help strengthen response efforts.

Resilience and Adaptability

Rural communities often report that they are resilient and adaptive. People who live in rural areas are often able to adapt and be self-sufficient in the face of an emergency or disaster. This resilience is attributed to the strong social ties held by people in rural areas and individual characteristics, such as tenacity and independence.

Case Study

Cyberattack at a Critical Access Hospital in Sandusky, Michigan
Initial response to the cyberattack included taking all operations offline. Hospital staff was able to adapt quickly to this change, and the hospital CEO attributed that to their experience in a rural community and being used to occasionally dealing with digital interruptions.

Community Assets

Each rural community is different, as is each community's specific strengths. A community is made up of different individuals, cultures, associations, institutions, physical characteristics, and relationships. These components combine to create unique community assets that can contribute to rural planning, response, and recovery efforts.

Rural communities should take the time to determine what community assets exist and identify how those assets may contribute to emergency preparedness, response, and recovery. For more information, see Identify Community Needs and Assets in the Rural Community Health Toolkit.