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Offices and Services:
U of I Extension helping counties prepare for the worst
One of the questions in this post-9/11, post-Hurricane Katrina world is how smaller counties and communities can be better prepared to meet emergencies. University of Illinois Extension is assisting some of these counties as they plan to face the uncertainties of disaster response.
Extension has helped counties:
- Complete mitigation plans
- Protect small businesses and non-profits
- Organize community groups to assist in responding to disasters
- Provide guidance on cropland and landscape restoration
- Help residents cope with financial uncertainties
- Plan to care for children, the elderly and other at risk populations
- Assess structural and crop damage for aid applications
- Quantify economic impact
- And address other related issues
Just last week, during this National Preparedness Month, Lisa Fulkerson, County Director and Carrie McKillip, Extension Educator, Community and Economic Development Educator in Henderson, Knox, McDonough and Warren Counties hosted a disaster exercise at the Extension office in Stronghurst. I served as the controller for the event which simulated the derailment of several cars of a freight train and the subsequent leak of a petroleum based product from a tank car. This is a very real concern in a town that has 85 trains (not train cars…trains!) a day run through it. We were assisted by a representative of a cleanup firm under contract to Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad.
Driving the 3-plus hour drive back to Champaign that evening, the thought struck me that more students live in dorms and certified housing on campus than live in all of Henderson County. Yet, 31 people, representative of dozens more in their respective organizations, took time out to participate in the exercise. As we went through the various scenarios it was evident that they knew exactly what local resources would be available to meet any challenge because those responsible were their friends and neighbors.
It also occurred to me that the Extension staff around the state are some of those same resources in their communities. So during this month, whether as part of their job duties or as volunteer firefighters, emergency medical technicians, blood donors or members of churches and other organizations who support emergency response, we thank those Extension staff or others in the College of ACES who help keep their neighbors safe when the worst happens.