At the start of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) in 2020, telehealth became a powerful
resource for providers to care for their patients while trying to stop the spread of a deadly virus. A
well-timed grant at the University of Vermont Medical Center supported rural providers in Vermont by
providing telehealth equipment and assistance. The AUGMENT Tele-ED/EMS project uses the hub-and-spoke
model to create capacity and access to healthcare services in rural Vermont, with the ultimate goal of
supporting a response to a mass casualty incident.
The Big Horn Basin Healthcare Coalition (BHB HCC) coordinates emergency response training across the 4
remote counties it serves in Wyoming: Big Horn, Park, Hot Springs, and Washakie Counties. Partners and
stakeholders from different sectors of the community are members within the rural healthcare coalition,
including Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), search and rescue volunteers, first responders, and public
health and emergency management professionals. In April 2022, the BHB HCC hosted a training exercise for
emergency response to a utility explosion and burn patient surge event, which helped responders practice
their skills and identify barriers in remote incident management. The unique aspects of emergency
response in frontier or remote areas mean that the BHB HCC must practice continuous planning, training,
and emergency preparedness.
Environmental Justice Strong (EJ Strong) is a South Carolina-based pilot project for environmental
justice and emergency response that applies a multiple hazard and threat assessment framework to
emergency response initiatives in natural, agricultural, environmental, and human-made disasters. EJ
Strong has been successfully utilized to address food security concerns in rural communities, such as
Oconee County, in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just as the Vermont Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Coalition (VHEPC) was starting to find its voice
in the state, a large-scale, global pandemic tested its capabilities starting in March 2020. The
projects VHEPC conducted during the pandemic, including data collection, communication, and the
development of a medical surge toolkit, not only provided resources for Vermont but also served as an
example for the rest of the country.