August 1999 // Volume 37 // Number 4 // Ideas at Work // 4IAW1
Extension Disaster Education Network Helps CES Prepare, Communicate
The Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) helps Cooperative Extension System faculty and staff share information related to emergencies. The informal organization is a model for Extension to develop other interdisciplinary topics across state lines to meet needs with minimal investment of time and money. States are invited to join EDEN, and staff and the public are welcome to use the information offered through the cooperative Web site.
After the floods of 1993, Extension services in the North Central Region states realized they could do more effective work during a disaster if they were better prepared and could draw on an established network. Thanks to a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and leadership from the University of Illinois, NCR state representatives formed the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN).
EDEN's mission is to reduce the impact of natural and man-made disasters through interdisciplinary and multi-state research and education programs that address disaster mitigation, preparation, and recovery. Extension staff have always been involved in emergency work on the local and state levels, but by working across state lines and with other agencies, this expertise is brought together. In addition, by planning ahead, CES can be better prepared to serve people in time of need.
The network is now national with 28 states represented and other states in the process of naming representatives. Pat Skinner with Louisiana CES currently serves as EDEN coordinator. State representatives include specialists in engineering, housing, clothing and textiles, safety, finance, child development, public policy, veterinary medicine, communications, psychology, marine science, and other subjects.
Reasons for EDEN's success and growth include its grassroots beginnings, diversity of representation, multidisciplinary approach, and loosely structured organization.
EDEN's major goals include:
Sharing educational resources and technical expertise across state lines. At an annual meeting and via conference calls and e-mail, EDEN members share publications, videotapes, World Wide Web sites, other resources, and even personal experiences.
Using electronic technology to develop, archive, update, transmit, and receive educational information. The EDEN Web site makes it possible to see what resources are available from different state Extension services and from other agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross.
Establishing formal links for long-term collaboration with federal, state, and local Emergency Management agencies, American Red Cross, and other cooperators. This will help disaster victims receive the help they need without duplication as each agency focuses on its mission.
The EDEN Web site (http://www.agctr.lsu.edu/eden/) primarily provides resources for short- and long-term educational programming. Each member state enters information in the database to link to its disaster resources. The Web site has information on how to prepare for disasters, what to do after a disaster strikes, how to get disaster assistance, how to help disaster victims, and much more. Users can conduct a search of disaster-related resources, browse through resources from member states, and access links to disaster agencies and organizations.
By putting resources on the Web, Extension staff have the most up-to-date information available instantly. New fact sheets don't have to be reprinted every time there's a change, and inaccurate or out-of-date information is less likely to be distributed.
EDEN is an informal network that requires minimal central support. Each member state can share its resources and access accurate information at little expense. When signing the EDEN cooperative agreement, directors agree to have their state represented by one or more Extension professionals interested in disaster issues, link their state's disaster information with the EDEN Web site, and share materials and technical expertise across state lines. Using the EDEN model, CES could address a variety of subjects and interdisciplinary topics in a timely- and cost-effective manner.
Despite its informal structure, the EDEN network is effective. For example, when North Dakota experienced flooding in 1997, e-mail communication resulted in information based on experience not found in any publication. Kansas and Missouri loaned moisture meters so homeowners who checked them out from North Dakota county Extension offices could make sure the wood in their homes was dry enough for rebuilding. Minnesota turned to EDEN during the same disaster for Web-based and video resources.
When Indiana provided staff in-service on "Preparing Rural Communities for Disaster Events," several EDEN representatives shared their expertise. Based on Indiana's successful training, Michigan and other states are planning similar in-service for staff.
A disaster can be anything from a local chemical spill or fire to an area blizzard or hurricane to a multi-state drought or flood. Extension staff are educational resources before, during and after any of these disasters, and EDEN helps get accurate information to them -- and to the people who need it -- quickly.
States that want to learn more or become part of the Extension Disaster Education Network can visit the Web site or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.