As we begin 2012, many of us are now reflecting upon the smiles and cheer we brought to the children in and around our lives during the recent holiday season. And while we consider the effort we put into finding, just the perfect gift to brighten their day, it is also a perfect time to reflect upon their safety and well-being for the future.
Did you know, at the end of the 20th century, research showed an estimated 66.5 million children were affected each year by a natural disaster, and this number is expected to increase? Couple this with the fact that according to the National Climate Data Center, 2011 has seen more billion-dollar natural disasters than any year on record; and it clearly demonstrates the importance of increasing youth disaster preparedness knowledge, skills, and behaviors.
Youth preparedness is a priority at the Federal level, and is important to the resilience of any community. Leading educators and scholars in the field of preparedness education consider our nation’s youth to be the best envoy for taking preparedness messages home to their families.
So how can you help ensure our nation’s youth are prepared for any disaster or emergency event? Check out a few of the suggestions below:
- Promote interactive activities within families, such as the development of home emergency plans or home-based activities starting with simple, easy activities and progressing to other tasks.
- Give special consideration to bilingual children, as they can serve as con¬duits of information to their friends, family, and community members who do not fully understand English.
- Learn more about establishing a youth program in your community by participating in one of FEMA’s technical assistance workshops. However, you don’t have to wait to get started. For more information about integrating preparedness education into your local youth programs, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Use real world events to teach about emergency situations and disasters (e.g., media coverage of a hazard). Also, use materials in the public domain (e.g., checklists, materials from FEMA, other Government agencies and nonprofit organizations) to better understand local hazards and appropriate preparedness and response actions.
- Use demonstrations by invited guest speakers who are credible and engaging, such as emergency management authori¬ties, fire service, and law enforcement personnel. Interventions are found to be more effective when the instructor is likeable, friendly, and viewed positively.
Remember, emergencies will happen, but taking action now can help minimize the impact they will have on our lives. Preparedness is contagious. What starts with one family can spread throughout a neighborhood. So take the time and be ready in 2012.
FEMA Deputy Administrator instructs students in Virginia in 2010 about the importance of brining emergency preparednes home.