SAN JUAN, PR –If new generations are raised with emergency preparedness awareness as an inherent part of their early education, communities will become smarter and more resilient sooner. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) supports this approach since dependable preparedness plans equal a swifter recovery for individuals, local, state and federal governments after a disaster.
“Our communities need to get better prepared to rapidly respond to emergencies and if we reach this younger audience earlier, emergency preparedness will be a familiar subject, but most importantly, they will be ready sooner. Youngsters have a significant influence on their peers and families, which may drive this preparedness message further on,” said FEMA’s Caribbean Area Division Director, Alejandro De La Campa.
For this reason, FEMA established the first Youth Preparedness Council to discuss and promote steps meant to strengthen the nation’s resiliency against all types of disasters. This Council is comprised of 13 youth leaders (ages 13 – 17) from each of FEMA’s 10 regions, which will develop and conclude their emergency preparedness projects in two years.
13-year old Humacao resident, Gabriela Rodriguez-Boria, is FEMA’s Region II Youth Council representative. Puerto Rico is one of the jurisdictions under Region II, which also includes New York, New Jersey and the US Virgin Islands. With her project, Gabriela seeks opportunities to prepare youngsters to be ready before and after a disaster strikes, making communities in Puerto Rico more emergency resilient through its budding members. She is organizing a Teen Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) of approximately 15-20 students at her school and plans to replicate this program in other schools in neighboring communities, and eventually to all Region II jurisdictions.
The CERT Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Youngsters can involve their schools, neighbors, churches, families and friends in similar initiatives where they can acquire surviving tools for future emergencies. Young minds bring fresh eyes and new perspectives to any preparedness endeavour, therefore FEMA encourages their contribution in emergency planning and readiness for our communities.
There is additional information about the Youth Council at www.citizencorps.gov/getstarted/youth/youthindex. If you are interested in becoming a CERT member, locate the nearest CERT team or check for upcoming training opportunities, visit www.citizencorps.gov/cert. Learn more about emergency preparedness and how to improve your community resiliency to emergency situations by visiting www.fema.gov or www.ready.gov.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.