Small towns preparing for natural disasters amid COVID-19

As severe weather season ramps up, rural communities are raising questions about disaster preparedness during the pandemic.

The on-going public health emergency complicates response plans in small towns, where many are still recovering from last year’s disasters.

Lack of resources such as staffing, mapping tools, and funding make disaster planning in rural areas difficult.

“I think we are under investing in government. I am just appalled that we only have two inspectors for the whole state of Michigan and we have a thousand dams we should be inspecting regularly,” Richard Norton, a professor of regional planning at the University of Michigan said. “In some of the smallest towns, policy hurdles usually prevent residents from getting federal assistance and shrinking populations cut the pool of taxpayers in rural communities.”

Leaders say that developing grants with special provisions could create new ways to funnel money into rural disaster response programs.