Success StoryExtension Disaster Preparedness Conference

Extension Disaster Preparedness Conference

Author: Kayla Watts

Planning Unit: Breathitt County CES

Major Program: Flood Relief & Recovery

Plan of Work: Disaster Preparedness in Breathitt County

Outcome: Intermediate Outcome

The U.S. Climate Vulnerability Index, which measures several categories of data across census tracts in the U.S., shows Kentucky communities are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.  According to, the state of Kentucky has had nine federally declared disasters since the beginning of 2020. These disasters have affected various regions of the state causing chaos.  The Climate Vulnerability Index suggests that these natural disasters will continue to occur in Kentucky, thus better preparation for community stakeholders must take place.

To better prepare county agents for their role in disaster preparation, mitigation, response, and recovery, and to build much needed partnerships with disaster response agencies across Kentucky, Kayla Watts, Agent on Special Assignment for Community Recovery and Resiliency, and Dr. Jeff Young, Director of Urban Extension, partnered with local, state, and out of state agencies to implement the first ever University of Kentucky (UK) Extension Disaster Preparedness Conference.  Partners included:  Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN), Kentucky Emergency Management, Kentucky Public Health, local Emergency Management, local and regional Health Departments, UK College of Public Health, UK Agriculture Weather Center, UK Extension Office of Diversity, UK Center for Economic Development in Kentucky (CEDIK), the National Weather Service (NWS), the University Consortium for Health, Food, and Agricultural Resilience (UCHFAR), and Kentucky State University Extension.

The UK Extension Disaster Preparedness Conference took place over a total of four days in Lexington, Kentucky. 116 participants, both Extension and non-Extension employees, attended this conference where they networked and learned new ways to create prepared and resilient communities across the state. Presenters from each of the partners listed above provided training to participants with over 12 different sessions offered throughout the 4-day conference.   Out-of-state partners through EDEN provided in-depth training in specialty areas related to Extension’s response during a local disaster. Each day there were keynote lunch speakers, presenters from the National Weather Service (NWS) and UK and Purdue campus faculty, which focused on climate/weather ready communities. 

Initial data shows that participants plan to use information they learned during the conference to make preparedness decisions within their communities.  Also, data shows that participants learned new organizations to partner with to build resiliency within their home communities.  Further, this conference allowed UK Extension personnel to continue building relationships with state agencies for future disaster preparedness outreach efforts across the state.

The UK Extension Disaster Preparedness Conference was a success. Not only do conference participants feel better prepared for disaster mitigation and response, but state-level and community-level partners and Extension came together so that relationships continue to grow in preparation for future disaster response and recovery.  All of which combat the growing climate vulnerability index in Kentucky.

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