Monroe County, W.Va. Citizens Model Community Emergency Preparedness

County’s example and experiences will be topic of Threat Preparedness Coordinator Kelly Shreve’s presentation at the Sustainable Living Forum

UNION, W.Va. — The citizens of Monroe County, spurred on by county Threat Preparedness Coordinator Kelly Shreve, are modeling grassroots community emergency preparedness. Shreve has served in her part-time position for the Monroe County Health Department since 2010. While she has impressive credentials and extensive experience to fulfill her duties, she acknowledges that it’s the people of Monroe County that truly work to make it prepared for any disaster that might strike.

That is because seven years ago, Shreve started a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program in Monroe County. Just four months later, her foresight paid off when the 2012 derecho blasted through The Mountain State.

A veteran of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resource before accepting the job in Monroe County, Shreve holds a bachelor’s degree in history and psychology arom WVU and a master’s in Community Health Promotion from WVU. In her undergraduate program, Shreve was in the first Women’s Studies group. She is also a Certified Health Education Specialist.

Shreve will be speaking at the Sweet Springs Sustainable Living Forum set for Aug. 16-18 in nearby Sweet Springs. She will be addressing the topic of community threat preparedness in a rural setting and why it is vital to have community participation in emergency preparedness to ensure a sustainable community. She is scheduled to speak Saturday morning during the 10 a.m. session devoted to ensuring the safety of vulnerable people, food and water.

Shreve said that when she first started her job, she conducted a risk assessment for Monroe County. That led to the development of the CERT program, explained Shreve. “It was because we had only 50 professional responders in a county of 474 square miles.” She took CERT training and then became certified to train others. “I brought it to the county and the first graduates were in March of 2012. Then we had the derecho.”

Of course, she could not have forecasted the rare weather event, But she could anticipate problems in a large, rural county with a limited number of trained responders. She shared, “I felt like CERT training was really the best use of my time.” And it was, she noted, because for days the CERT team helped with a cooling center, distributing water and checking on vulnerable neighbors.

“They worked their tail ends off for 10 solid days,” she said. “They were dealing with a lot of things. It really brought it home the value of the training. We continued to do it. We have over 100 people trained now.” She said that while not every person can respond to every contingency, “There’s always a core group I can count on.”

Shreve also spoke to the value of the West Virginia Jurisdictional Risk Assessment (JRA) for Monroe County. Health departments in West Virginia exist “To address chronic conditions specifically the social and environmental factors that influence health,” explained Shreve. The JRA helps with that, as the purpose is to, “Consider how hazards apply specifically to health and health systems in (the) county and explore how impact, probability, and mitigation change risk.”

The JRA for Monroe County ranks “Drug Epidemic/Mental Health Crisis” as the greatest risk. “Mineral Extraction Failure” is ranked second. Third is “Agricultural Disease Outbreak.”

Knowing that is essential said Shreve because “If CERT volunteers come up on an emergency situation, they are trained.”

She added, “We live in a rural county with already very sketchy cell phone service and electricity going out often. Having people prepared to help vulnerable people is critical for us.”

As she pointed out, “All disasters begin and end locally. We have to make sure we’re not alone.” She said in addition to the CERT team, she and her office work closely with other emergency response personnel, governmental organizations, NGOs, other nonprofits and private industry.

Asked what she plans to say at the Sustainable Living Forum, Shreve said,  “The first step is to get a measure of what sort of volunteer response to expect in an emergency. Who is trained? What training do people need? Where do we train? Is there a vulnerable population registry?”

Those are questions Monroe County is still addressing she acknowledged. “In West Virginia, our budgets are based on our population. We have less than 15,000 people. We just hired our first full-time sanitarian. The only full time person is the clerk. We have a very small staff.”

So, shared Shreve, “My goal is to create some sort of coalition of stakeholders that are fighting the drug epidemic and the fallout from it.” She revealed that the county is ranked 47th out of the top 220 communities in the United States for risk of disease outbreak related to the opioid crisis. “We have identified the threat. Now, we must determine what we are going to do about it.”

Monroe County CERT

The Monroe County CERT volunteers won the Governor’s Service Award in 2016, noted Shreve. So, while the challenges facing her in preparing for threats remains a daunting challenge, it is made easier by community support. Operating on a budget of $30,000 per year that includes her salary, Shreve has not only been training CERT teams, but she has also been consistently purchasing  emergency supplies.

As important as those supplies will be when the next disaster strikes, they will be useless without the people properly trained to utilize them. In Monroe County, Shreve has ensured that the county has the people it needs. More importantly, the people of the county have decided they will be part of sustaining their communities, including through disasters. Such community involvement is not only desirable, it is essential.

Learn More

The Sustainable Living Forum is open to the public and free of charge. Primitive camping at the venue is free.  Food vendors will be providing breakfast, lunch and dinner options at reasonable prices. Additional attractions include craft vendors, historical stations and hands-on demonstrations.

For additional information about the Sustainable Living Forum program or about the Sweet Springs Resort Park Foundation, call 304-536-1207, check the Sweet Springs Resort Park Foundation Facebook page or the Events page of the Appalachian Chronicle. To get there by GPS: 19540 Sweet Springs Valley Road, Gap Mills, WV 24941.

Previous articles about the Sustainable Living Forum:

Sweet Springs Sustainable Living Forum & Craft Fair Set for Aug. 16-18

A ‘Lonesome Friend of Science’ Presses On

Mother Earth Needs Her Children

Jeeva Abbate to Participate in Sweet Springs Sustainable Living Forum

Appalachia ‘A Sacred Place Calling for a Spiritual Solution’ Says Forum Speaker

Here Comes the Sun

Arts and Crafts Vendor Spaces Available for Sustainable Living Forum

© Michael M. Barrick, 2019

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