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Youth Development & 4-H

Community Readiness Networks

Communities need rapid access to local action information during an emergency, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Several Western states (Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Utah) in Extension's Disaster Education Network (EDEN), in an effort to enhance access to EDEN 's resources, are testing the development and training of local responders by 4–H Youth tech teams. Through community readiness networks (CRNs), these teams are learning to provide customized access to emergency information and alerts.

EDEN began during the 1993 Midwest flood disasters and has proven its worth during several more recent emergency events, such as Hurricane Isabelle in 2003 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Local responders—fire, police, and emergency medical personnel—access the valuable content of EDEN 's searchable databases.

CRNs are a partnership of local government, local 4–H tech teams, the Land-Grant University System, USDA's Rural Development Agency, and “MyStateUSA.” The latter is a company in Idaho that develops the software used by the youth tech teams and community partners to customize and localize their local Web interface and features content from DHS, USDA, the Cooperative Extension System, and EDEN, as well as local sources of content from schools, government agencies, and community organizations.

Youth 4–H tech teams collect local content, serve as cyber-journalists, update and manage the content, and train the local community to use the access software.  Links to emergency information from state and national organizations (EDEN, DHS, etc.) are found beside that of local-interest information. Citizens learn and become comfortable with accessing the dynamic local information and are able to use the same tool in times of emergency. During non-emergency times, a CRN can be used for rapid access to social, economic, and environmental updates.

NIFA provides national leadership and technical support to this effort through information technology education, which gives users the skills they need to use these communication tools effectively.

See a video clip (.exe executable file) about the use of alert response software in a “Community Readiness Network” pilot project designed to improve first responder’s communication linkages in emergency situations. The pilot project is active in select small rural towns in Idaho, Oregon, and Utah. This partnership between Washington State University, in cooperation with the Community Response Network, 4–H programs nationwide, and USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, benefits local and state police, sheriffs, rescue personnel, tribal individuals, and other community members. Teen tech networks allow technology savvy youth to teach other community members how to apply current Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology to emergency and non-emergency situations. For more information, contact Tom Tate, NIFA national program leader.


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Last Updated: 02/23/2009