More than 150 preparedness leaders gathered to discuss the importance of youth preparedness in a two-day summit hosted by the American Red Cross, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Education.
The goal of the summit, held at the American Red Cross Hall of Service, was to receive input from participants and develop a framework for a national strategy on preparedness education. Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern kicked off the event by delivering the opening remarks.
“Youth have always played an important role in fulfilling our mission,” McGovern said. “I believe by creating a culture of preparedness with our youth, we are creating a more resilient society.”
Attendees heard from several presenters who were on hand to explain the role that schools, youth and family can play in preparedness. Tim Manning, deputy director, Protection and National Preparedness for FEMA said, “Communities are their own best advocates.” He continued, “To educate our children to know what to do, we need to build organizations with our community youth.”
In conjunction with the summit, FEMA is releasing a research report, Bringing Youth Preparedness Education to the Forefront: A Literature Review and Recommendations. It points out that even though children are at special risk for disasters, this does not necessarily mean that they are passive victims. Programs can offer child-friendly activities in their homes, schools, and communities that can both educate children on preparedness measures and help mitigate disasters from occurring. In turn, children can then play a role in communicating preparedness information to their friends and family members.
Brian Kamoie, senior director for Preparedness Policy for the White House, spoke about specific needs of children during a disaster and that the FEMA findings show that “children should not be treated the same as adults. Children have unique needs and vulnerabilities.”
The Red Cross currently engages more than 169,000 youth and young adults with meaningful opportunities in preparedness from babysitter training to aquatics and water safety classes to CPR and first aid. The youth are educated about leading healthier, safer lives as well as to serve as instructors, lifeguards and peer educators. The Red Cross has also created an award-winning curriculum entitled Masters of Disaster which integrates emergency preparedness into kindergarten to 8th grade students’ daily lesson plans nationwide. The curriculum includes lesson plans for earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, lightning and general preparedness that get integrated into core academic subjects such as science, math, language arts and social studies.
To find out more about youth preparedness, please visit the Red Cross Youth Blog or contact your local Red Cross.