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Red Cross Community Preparedness Programs Win FEMA Recognition


Community preparedness programs by American Red Cross chapters in Chicago, Louisville and Alaska earned recognition in 2011 FEMA Individual and Community Preparedness Awards, which were recently announced.

The Greater Chicago Chapter won the Outstanding Achievement in Youth Preparedness Award for its’ When Kids Are Safe, the Community is Prepared entry. This initiative, which provides a network of preparedness programs, reached and trained more than 55,000 youth and their families in more than 20 different low-income neighborhoods during January 2010 to June 2011.

The chapter conducted county and zip code needs assessments, met with numerous community and government groups and then came up with a comprehensive strategy for reaching kids from vulnerable neighborhoods. The chapter also used different tools and techniques to teach kids how to identify potential hazards, and learn safety, prevention and response techniques in: fire safety and prevention; water safety and drowning prevention; and proper hygiene and disease prevention. Community kid preparedness efforts in the Chicago program included improvements in Community Safety Days, Team and Kid Firestopper, the Kid Safety Program and other prevention and safety programs aimed at children.

“The When Kids Are Safe, the Community is Prepared initiative in Chicago is a great example of what the Red Cross can do with our partners to help build resilience in our communities,” said Russ Paulsen, Executive Director of Program Management at the Red Cross. “It’s making a difference in people’s lives before a disaster happens, so that they suffer less and bounce back faster after something happens.”

In addition, the Louisville Area Chapter of the Red Cross earned an honorable mention in the Promising Partnerships category in the FEMA awards for its Pillowcase Project. This program, sponsored by Louisville Gas & Electric, is an interactive, age-appropriate youth education program that targets second and third grade students and teaches them about disasters common to the local area, the importance of disaster preparedness, and how to put together their own preparedness kit. The program introduces Sammy the Pillowcase as a mentor and expert on disasters and preparedness. It begins with Sammy educating the children about disasters and leading them through interactive activities that include the children decorating their own pillowcases and receiving items to help get them started putting together personal preparedness kits. Since its launch in February of this year, the Louisville Chapter has engaged 860 second and third graders.

The American Red Cross of Alaska also received an honorable mention in the Awareness to Action category for its Alaska Ready project to train volunteers to provide Red Cross services throughout Alaska. This initiative, sponsored by BP, expands the disaster services program and Red Cross presence throughout Alaska, focusing more specifically on rural areas of the state. By reaching out to village councils in Alaska Native communities, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, and fire departments, the chapter was able to reach 56 communities, many of them in areas of Alaska accessible only by boat or plane.

“Along with the programs in Louisville and Alaska that won honorable mentions, our California chapters who are part of the Earthquake Country Alliance Shake Out CA, Awareness to Action Award and our Midwestern chapters who were part of the Great Central United States Shake Out that received the Outstanding Drill, Exercise or Event Award were also highlighted as community partners,” Paulsen said. “These programs and partnerships show what we can do with our renewed emphasis on preparedness and resilience.”

“We are proud of these communities, organizations, and individuals and their remarkable accomplishments,” said Paulette Aniskoff, FEMA’s Director for Individual and Community Preparedness. “I’m honored to recognize those who are empowering the public to take action in making their communities safer and better prepared to respond to disaster. FEMA is just one part of the team, and we couldn’t build our nation’s preparedness without the innovation and creativity put forth by organizations and individuals, such as this year’s winners.”

Leadership from National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), and FEMA selected this year’s winners from applicants among 36 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The 200 or so award submissions in 13 different categories reflected the “whole of community” approach to emergency management, with submissions from faith-based, tribal, non-profit, private sector, and community-based organizations, as well as individuals.