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Frameworks for Rural Preparedness Planning, Response, and Recovery

Multiple structures and frameworks exist to guide rural communities in preparedness planning, response, and recovery. Rural communities should approach preparedness and resilience systematically at all levels, addressing governance, capacities, and resources.

Whole Community Approach

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines a Whole Community approach to emergency management as:
“a means by which residents, emergency management practitioners, organizational and community leaders, and government officials can collectively understand and assess the needs of their respective communities and determine the best ways to organize and strengthen their assets, capacities, and interests.”

Involving partners, including individuals, businesses, schools, media, government, and other collaborators, is central to implementing a Whole Community approach. The Whole Community approach highlights the importance of understanding community complexity, recognizing capabilities and needs, fostering relationships and building partnerships, leveraging and strengthening existing networks, and empowering local action. Approaching preparedness plans and procedures with this framework can foster resiliency at all levels.

FEMA's National Planning Frameworks

The FEMA National Planning Frameworks use a Whole Community approach to describe how individuals and organizations can work together to build and sustain community preparedness. The National Planning Frameworks are organized by FEMA mission area: prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. Each framework has a flexible structure for implementation, outlines an overall process, and defines key principles, roles, and responsibilities.

National Incident Management System (NIMS)

The FEMA National Incident Management System (NIMS) was established to provide clear decision-making hierarchy and standardized procedures for emergency situations. It guides all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector by providing a universal system to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate multiple hazards. The structure helps ensure collaboration of various points of contact, including EMS, fire, and police, for a systematic response. FEMA provides access to trainings, tools, and other resources to support implementation of the NIMS within communities.

Health Equity Frameworks

Guiding structures and frameworks that systematically address and prioritize health equity can help build rural community capacity for emergency preparedness and response. Priorities include partnering with community organizations, expanding data collection and reporting methods, and building capacity to address disparities.

Several different frameworks for health equity can be applied to emergency preparedness and response. For example, the CMS Framework for Health Equity 2022-2032 encourages implementation of strategies to address disparities in five priority areas: data collection, reporting, and analysis; causes of disparities within CMS programs; healthcare organizations and workforce; language access, health literacy, and culturally tailored services; and healthcare access and coverage. The 2011 document Guidance for Integrating Culturally Diverse Communities into Planning for and Responding to Emergencies: A Toolkit, developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH), provides specific recommendations, resources, and examples for improving preparedness planning and response programs to meet the needs of racially and ethnically diverse populations.

The March 2022 document Health Equity and Health Disparities Environmental Scan, from the HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), identifies the health equity frameworks commonly used by public health agencies in their state health improvement plans. For more information on health equity frameworks, see the Rural Health Equity Toolkit.

Other Emergency Preparedness and Response Frameworks

Other frameworks that are used to guide emergency preparedness and response include:

The One Health Approach is commonly used during planning efforts to prevent infectious diseases. For more information, see Emergency Preparedness and Response for Infectious Disease Outbreaks.