The letters and drawings of appreciation say it all. Levi, an elementary student in Union City, Oklahoma drew a picture of a cone shaped tornado moving toward what he labeled as a house. In between the house and the shelter was a stick figure running with a bag in hand. His quote…. “Thank you for the pillowcase it will help me stay alive.”
Help in the form of a pillowcase. Sounds strange but for hundreds of school children a pillowcase was the perfect piece for teaching preparedness.
In early spring 2014, the American Red Cross launched the Pillowcase Project in the communities that had been affected by the storms. The goal was to provide tornado preparedness to children to enhance their understanding of what tornadoes are, how they act and empower them to be prepared in the event of another one.
At each training children received a pillowcase filled with items that can be used in an emergency. The bags contained glow sticks, emergency blankets, a safety whistle and information to take home and share with their families so they could create their own family preparedness plan. The children were allowed to color their pillowcase - fill it with their supplies and a comfort item of their choice. They made it their own and were encouraged to keep it in a place where they could get to it quickly.
“Thank you for the supplies I’m taking good care of them,” William at Union City Elementary School wrote the Red Cross. “I will always remember the supplies and how dangerous a tornado is and that it can reach 250 mph or more. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.”
The Red Cross asked students what they learned after each session. In Canadian County, Oklahoma 560 students were trained over a month’s time in two school districts. The sessions appeared to make a difference.
-94% of students stated they felt more prepared for an emergency
-81% of students correctly identified what to do during a tornado warning
To date nearly 3,000 students have been taught by the Red Cross in preparedness training throughout the storm affected areas.
“Thank you for the pillowcase. I already put it in my tornado shelter,” Sabrie at Union City Elementary School told the Red Cross. “I’m happy I know what to do in a tornado better than I did. Hope you stay safe this year.”