Starting in August 2020, the August Complex wildfire lasted three months and was responsible for the
death of one firefighter and injured two other firefighters. It burned nearly 1 million acres and
damaged hundreds of buildings. Round Valley Indian Reservation lies in the area north of Covelo,
California. The fires impacted many residents of the Round Valley Indian Tribes. Some feared for their
safety, homes, and livestock; however, they all faced air quality issues associated with smoke from the
fire. Round Valley was surrounded by fire on three sides. While the tribal clinic had an emergency
action plan, leaders soon discovered that the plan was not as detailed as it could have been. With the
assistance from both the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and the
National Forest Service (NFS) strike teams, residents were able to successfully manage threats
associated with the wildfire and further develop their emergency action plan.
In September 2020, Hurricane Sally blew into the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall over Gulf Shores,
Alabama. The rural beach community is familiar with extreme weather events and has responded to several
devastating storms in the past. However, they had never faced a hurricane season with the added threat
of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hurricane Sally was a surprise, deviating from its projected path at the last
moment and picking up speed as it came ashore. Emergency managers in Gulf Shores expected a smaller
storm and were caught off guard by the amount of rain that Hurricane Sally dropped in its slow movement.
As a tourist destination, Gulf Shores' emergency operations must account for a potential population that
is exponentially larger than its permanent residency. Gulf Shores is on an island that has limited
evacuation routes, which is why thorough planning and quick response are critical.
In July of 2019, a derecho windstorm produced straight-line winds up to 100 mph in a path 15 miles wide
and 25 miles long across northern Langlade and western Oconto Counties in Wisconsin. Trees and power
lines were snapped or uprooted across the counties. Local volunteer fire departments were first to
respond across the disaster area. Support from law enforcement, local government, local volunteers, the
National Guard, the Red Cross, Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) Strike Teams, and the Wisconsin
Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) were critical to recovery. Lessons learned from this disaster
include the need for increased clarity regarding jurisdiction, need for required training in emergency
management for local government officials, need for trained volunteers, and the need for accountability
tracking systems and documentation.
In February 2021, Texas suffered a massive power crisis when a winter storm debilitated the statewide
power grid infrastructure. Grayson County, home to Pottsboro, was one of the counties negatively
affected by the storm. During the week-long event, residents of the rural town experienced a
simultaneous loss of water and electricity. The Pottsboro Area Library coordinated a community response
to help residents access clean water for use in their homes. The library organized response efforts to
address compounding factors of concern, such as food availability, portable restroom access, and
neighborhood support. Through use of social media, the library connected community partners to residents
in need, effectively filling the gaps in the rural community's emergency response efforts. Through a
combination of passion, innovation, and a willingness to step up and “do something,” the
library created a sustainable system for community-managed emergency response and implemented proactive
emergency preparedness procedures for future events.
In early March 2019, severe flooding caused by a large winter storm left the city of Fremont in
northeastern Nebraska cut off from the outside, as roads in and out of the city became inaccessible. In
response, the local hospital, Methodist Fremont Health, relied on their well-practiced emergency plan
and training to successfully continue hospital operations. They focused on key areas of patient needs,
staffing levels, staff support, and resource acquisition and allocation. In addition, the hospital was
able to leverage well-established partnerships within and outside the community, including federal,
state, local, and regional relationships, to provide care for existing and incoming patients and to
reach beyond the hospital walls and serve as an important emergency resource in the community at large.
These partnerships were instrumental in setting up and staffing emergency shelters, organizing
transportation, and facilitating communication and collaboration among organizations and agencies
responding to the flood.
Sitka is a small rural coastal town in southeast Alaska. On August 18, 2015, the town was devastated by
a large landslide that destroyed property and killed three community members. Though Sitka was already
prepared for a tsunami with a warning system, the landslide was an unexpected natural disaster. The
event spurred the community into action, establishing a Sitka GeoTask Force and engaging scientists and
local, state, and national partners, the community built a landslide warning system using technology to
assess and communicate landslide risk. The data are available through an online dashboard that shows the
current landslide risk. The dashboard displays the risk as low, medium, or high.
Flooding disasters leave in their wake a complex set of problems. On March 13, 2019, a bomb cyclone hit
the Midwest portion of the United States, which caused the Platte River to overflow its banks and flood
the small town of North Bend, Nebraska. The storm caused over $2.6 billion in damage statewide and was
estimated to have resulted in over $3 million of damage in the small town of North Bend. Through a
combination of community spirit, effective leadership, and support from inside and outside the
community, the city recovered from the severe flooding, but not without learning important lessons.
On Friday, December 10, 2021, an EF4 tornado cut a 160-mile swath across Kentucky, wreaking havoc on the
ground for nearly three hours. It was one of eleven total tornadoes produced from the storm. It was the
deadliest tornado outbreak in the nation on record for the month of December, destroyed more than 15,000
buildings, and resulted in approximately 80 deaths. After the storm had passed, the massive destruction
and sheer numbers of injured citizens required an extensive, coordinated emergency response, made up
largely of small rural hospitals, emergency medical services (EMS), and disaster personnel. The response
was supported by existing relationships and collaborative partnerships to get resources where they were
In October 2020, the rural community of Estes Park, Colorado, was forced to evacuate the town due to the
encroaching East Troublesome Fire. Estes Park Health (EPH), a Critical Access Hospital, safely evacuated
their patients and long-term care residents over the course of just a few hours. Fortunately, EPH had
developed an emergency evacuation plan just 2 months prior when the Cameron Peak Fire was threatening
to advance near the hospital. Though the Cameron Peak Fire never reached Estes Park, EPH was prepared
for a wildfire response from this event. The town of Estes Park remained evacuated for 4 to 5 days
following the initial order, and EPH was able to maintain communication and some critical operations
remotely during those several days.