Community Description and Data Interpretation
DeKalb County is located in Northeastern Indiana with a population of 42,307. DeKalb County ranks number 35 in size in the state of Indiana. The county was named for General Johann de Kalb, who was wounded at the Battle of Camden in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War. The county measures a total of 364 square miles. The major cities and towns that comprise the county are Altona, Ashley, Auburn, Butler, Corunna, Garrett, Saint Joe and Waterloo. The city of Auburn was established as the county seat in 1835 and has a current population of 12,731.
Population Economic Status
DeKalb County is predominately White, 96.9% of the population, Judeo-Christian society. DeKalb is basically a non-diverse county. The next largest ethnic group is Hispanic at 2.5%. “From 2000-2010, DeKalb increased its Hispanic population by 355 individuals.” (Community Research Institute, 2012) The median household income is $46,065. On average the wage levels in DeKalb County are lower than in areas of similar size. The poverty level, which is below $17,374 for a family of three, is 12.1 % which is lower than the state’s average of 14.7%. The majority of those below the poverty level are single parent households and working older adults. In addition to the assessment of the national poverty level, the Indiana Institute for Working Families has created a self-sufficiency calculator to help reflect the financial needs of the family. The self-sufficiency calculator identifies the wages needed to meet basic necessities without the use of food stamps or public aid. For a family of three the annual salary needed to maintain the family is $31,054. This is difficult to achieve with no college education. The unemployment rate is 8.9% due to the recession and manufacturing industries decreasing their level of production within the community. DeKalb County has had the highest unemployment rate in Indiana for the past eleven years. This rate is reflexed by the number of those actively looking for work, those not currently employed and the retirement of the baby boomers. Because of the large number of single head of households with children, Food Stamp usage had risen from 593 in 2003 to 2,000 in 2011. This represents 13% of all DeKalb County residents receiving assistance with food. Single parents are also eligible for Women, Infants and Children, a government supplement program, which has increased by 88%. In 2001 there were 992 participates in the program compared to the current number of 1,869. Also available is TANF, temporary assistance for needy families that has doubled from the beginning of 2001 to the end of 2009.
The population in DeKalb County is comprised of 52.5% females and 47.5 % males. The fastest growing households have been the male head of house with no spouse, senior adults who live alone, and female head of house no spouse. The number of married couples with children has decreased. Those over the age of 65 account for 40% of all single person households. The population in DeKalb consists of many baby boomers that are getting ready for retirement and exiting the work force. In general the health of the residents of DeKalb County is good. The population has maintained a relatively low ranking for adult diabetes at 9.2%, adult smoking at 21%, and adult obesity at 30%. The quality of life is better than the national average. Residents who were in poor or fair health were at 13% compared to the state of Indiana at 16%. Residents who experienced poor physical health days were at 2.9 compared to 3.6 in the state. One of the disadvantages of living in a small county is the lack of facilities that provide recreational activity. Thus only about 50% of the residents partake in recreational activities. One of the greatest challenges in DeKalb County is the high incidence of Illegal drug use. According to the Indiana government 35 meth labs were seized in 2013 compared to 12 in 2011. Despite the increase in education for law enforcement personnel, who have been trained on how to detect the meth labs, meth continues to be readily available. Another problem that is prevalent in the County is child abuse and neglect. DeKalb County has a child abuse and neglect rate of 42 per 1,000 children. This is the second highest rate in the state of Indiana. DeKalb is in the top 10 counties in Indiana three times in the last ten years. One of the possible reasons for the increase could be related to the increase in parental drug use.
The DeKalb County health department offers a range of health information and services to the residents of the county. The department offers the following services wellness screenings, Shots for Tots, lipid profiles and health checks, Tuberculin skin tests, soil evaluations and water testing. The health department also offers the public information on various topics such as: gun permits, medical alert information, domestic violence, property taxes, chronic disease monitoring and sex offenders watch. Even though the information is easy to find and readily available the residents do not use the services. DeKalb County has many industrial facilities in the area. The air quality within DeKalb County ranked among the dirtiest 40% of all counties within the United States related to volatile organic compound emissions. Air pollutants that increased Cancer and health risks ranked among the worst 20% of all counties in the United States. The county ranked in the worst 10% of all counties in the United States for toxic chemicals released by factories, power plants and other industrial companies. The county also ranked in the worst 10% for Superfund sites. Another risk within the county is lead poisoning in the homes; on average 2% of the homes in DeKalb County have a high risk of lead paint hazards. Unfortunately, the growth of industry has created a negative impact on the community. Crimes rates within the county are low and usually are classified as a minor felony. Between 2002 and 2008 DeKalb County reported 3,941 crimes of those 231 were violent crimes. Most of the crimes that happened were a mile from the individual’s home. Someone is a victim of crime every fifteen hours. The local police department and sheriff’s office are quick to respond to calls for help through the 911 operator system. DeKalb County also has a potential for severe weather events. During the transition from winter to spring opportunities are present for severe weather. Educational information is available at the DeKalb County website for winter weather, flooding, and tornados. County alert systems are in place to warn the residence of a threat of severe weather. Community organizations and personnel have plans in place to help residents maintain safety and preparedness.
Disaster Assessment & Planning
“The DeKalb County Homeland Security department prepares implements and educates the public about the emergency response plans and procedures for the community.” (DeKalb County, 2014) The education includes equipment usage and allocation, the notification process for the emergency personnel and the public, and evacuation procedures. The department of Homeland Security regularly conducts training sessions for personnel and individuals who would direct safety operations during emergencies and disasters. The department also maintains a list of potentially hazardous chemicals, in accordance with federal regulations, used by all businesses and industries within DeKalb County. Emergency Preparedness Kit Suggestions and a family disaster supply calendars are available on the department’s website. Many in the community are unaware of the resources or even the informational website that the Department of Homeland Security has available.
In conclusion, DeKalb County is an area in need of great support and care. The community suffers from a large number of issues ranging from pollution to illegal drug use, child abuse and neglect and the public not understanding where to obtain the information regarding an emergency preparedness plan. All though the department of health and the Homeland Security Department have many resources available to assist the residences with education and implementation of safe practices the community lacks the knowledge on how to obtain the information and implement it. The community would benefit from programs on the dangers of drug use, how to cope with stress to help prevent child abuse, and an increase in the training and education of the emergency preparedness plan. If the public health organizations and the department of Homeland Security joined together to inform the public and assist with training and education DeKalb County would be an even better place to live.
Community Research Institute. 2012. DeKalb County Profile.
DeKalb County. 2014. Homeland Security: Department Overview.