This study investigates emergency action planning to cope with potential coal waste spills in the central Appalachian coalfields. It is based on a survey study of emergency preparedness in West Virginia’s Mingo and Wyoming Counties as well as a participant-observation and interview study in Martin County, Kentucky. This research suggests that merely having an emergency plan is insufficient for creating a public perception of disaster preparedness. Greater public and stakeholder participation in emergency planning should be encouraged in an effort to enhance emergency preparedness and build community trust. This is particularly challenging in resource-dependent communities which generally have comparatively high levels of environmental risk and often suffer from political-economic inequities that serve as barriers to institutional trust and community engagement.

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