WEST LAFAYETTE - Purdue Extension is taking steps to help strengthen emergency response in rural counties when fire and rescue crews are dispatched to accidents or disasters by launching the Purdue Rural Emergency Preparedness program. IN-PREP is a statewide initiative to assist rural communities during a natural or man-made incident.

“Historically, volunteer first responders in rural areas had familiarity or some level of agricultural background. Now we see many first-responders don’t have that background or the necessary ag specific training, and it can be overwhelming when they respond to emergencies at a farm or in a rural area,” said Shawn Ehlers, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering and IN-PREP program leader.

Ehlers says firefighters can face a diversity of hazards found in agriculture, such as grain bin entrapments, accidental farm chemical releases or a rescue from a manure pit.

“When a crisis occurs, it can be very chaotic and there can be a lot of misinformation flying around,” Ehlers said.

The initiative will focus on several different facets of disaster relief, including the dissemination of information, instruction for rural first responders and training of Extension educators.

Purdue Extension says IN-PREP cultivates relationships with major state and national organizations like the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Indiana Board of Animal Health so they can efficiently relay information to those who need it.

“Our goal is not to reinvent the wheel. What we are trying to do is organize and have materials available to educators and the public,” explained Ehlers.

A major component of the IN-PREP program is the website, which will serve as a hub of information and resources for all 92 counties. Learn more about it by clicking here.