Plan4Health Success Story: Disasters Toolkit for Texas Rural Communities

Plan4Health connects communities across the country, funding work at the intersection of planning and public health. Anchored by American Planning Association (APA) chapters and American Public Health Association (APHA) affiliates, Plan4Health supports creative partnerships to build sustainable, cross-sector coalitions.

The Texas Planners4Health Team used the experience of a rural Texas community with devastating tornadoes to develop a toolkit addressing disaster planning and recovery for small communites from a planning and public health perspective.

The team hopes this project sheds light on the need for an emergency preparedness and recovery plan so that small and rural communities can better prepare for disasters in their own areas.

On April 29, 2017, seven tornadoes ripped through Van Zandt County in Northeast Texas, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage, and four fatalities. Two of the seven tornadoes were found to have caused the most damage and were rated an EF-3 and EF-4. The areas that were affected the most were immediately to the east and the west of Canton, Texas.

In response, the Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association and the University of North Texas School of Public Health assembled a Planners4Health team to focus on disaster recovery, in Van Zandt County, from a social determinants of health perspective.

According to the team, one of the lessons learned after the Canton tornadoes was how critical it is to have an already-established Long Term Recovery Group in a community. The toolkit, Emergency Preparedness and Recovery: A Toolkit for Rural Communities, is organized around the areas of responsibility and oversight of such a group.

The Planners4Health team is also working to raise donations for the residents affected by the tornados in Van Zandt County.

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Top image: Texas Planners4Health Roundtable. Photo courtesy Texas Planners4Health Team website gallery.

About the Author
Michael McAnelly, FAICP, is executive administrator of APA's Texas Chapter.

March 26, 2018

By Michael McAnelly, FAICP