Fall 1986 // Volume 24 // Number 3 // Feature Articles // 3FEA4

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H. E. L. P.

A program helping the community deal with emergencies.

Donna L. Graham
Assistant Professor
Department of Agriculture and Extension Education
Extension Education Specialist
Cooperative Extension Service
University of Arkansas - Fayetteville

"Please help! It's Joe. 1 think he's having a heart attack. Hurry!" Click.

The Need for HELP

The caller identified the problem, but failed to provide information about the location of the emergency. The ambulance remained motionless, with paramedics experiencing an overpowering helplessness.

That's why Harmony Homemakers developed the idea of HELP-the Home Emergency Locator Program. This community partnership, spearheaded by the Extension Homemakers Club, established better communication between drivers of emergency vehicles and people reporting a need for aid.

Working with the area volunteer fire department, county judge, county road department, local printing company, and the area planning commission, Harmony Homemakers devised a plan of preparedness for residents in the service area of the local fire department.

Many rural roads were unmarked, and residents could only give directions with references such as "the Smith place." At the same time, callers were experiencing stress and often went "blank" when accurate information was vital.

The program objective was to help drivers of emergency vehicles find a location in the quickest possible time using the shortest possible route by:

  1. Providing each resident in the area with a telephone sticker containing emergency numbers and a listing of accurate directions using specific landmarks in tenths of miles that could be read to dispatchers.
  2. Placing numbered county road signs on all unpaved roads in the area.

Plan of Action

The organization that created the partnership played a key role in the short-term effects of the program. An overall committee was responsible for defining the areas served by the fire department and obtaining information needed by the dispatcher. The Map Committee worked with the Regional Planning Commission to secure adequate copies of maps with all county and state roads identified. The Sign and Road Committee gained support from the county judge and county road department. Road signs were provided at a nominal fee.

The Advertising Committee secured the services of a local printing company to produce an adhesivebacked sticker. Each sticker had a listing of emergency numbers, space for completing directions from designed intersections, and the caller's telephone number and name.

With all the necessary materials, the final step was implemented-a distribution plan. The stickers were accompanied by a door-to-door educational program explaining HELP and a map of the area with all paved and unpaved roads numbered to eliminate the need for guessing while giving directions.

The directions provided resulted from Harmony Homemaker Club members driving each road and recording road signs and mileage from major intersections.

In less than one year, the community is reaping the benefits of this partnership. New county road signs are in place, and more than 1,500 homes have information stickers and maps.

This program has demonstrated a level of impact desired from all our Extension efforts-behavioral change. Area residents are using the information. In one month, two residents had need of emergency assistance and followed the procedures and directions on the HELP stickers.

Neighboring volunteer fire departments are using the program as a model. Many have requested information on the program and have begun similar efforts in their local communities.


When examining the program from either a program planning or social action perspective, key elements leading to the success of this program are evident:

  • It was based on a felt need and supported by the local people.
  • Clearly defined goals and objectives were specified.
  • A plan of action was outlined.
  • Organizational positions were identified.
  • A division of work was established that could best serve the purpose of the organization.
  • The program was held together by a bond of interest created by its purpose.
  • Partners fused their separate loyalties into a larger pattern of interconnected interest.
  • Decisions were made that reflected the ability to join in a common effort and not the capacity of the separate groups.

The challenge, of course, is to always be mindful of these elements in our leadership development process to "help people help themselves."