FEMA builds relationship with Rhode Island high school students

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By Sarah Magee, Research & Writing Specialist

Does FEMA pay attention to green issues? What do you like best about your FEMA job? How can I get a job with FEMA?—These were some of the questions students at the YouthBuild School in Providence, R.I., asked of the FEMA specialists who recently talked with them.

The students were constructing a FEMA DAWG HAUS to model disaster-resistant building techniques, and, thanks to a presentation by FEMA External Affairs and Mitigation representatives from the Warwick Joint Field Office, they had the opportunity to learn how their project fit into the bigger picture of FEMA overall.

YouthBuild students building a Dawg HausProvidence, R.I.--Two students at YouthBuild Providence work on a FEMA “DAWG HAUS.” DAWG HAUS is an acronym (Disaster Avoidance With Good Home-Attenuating Unionization System) for a structure that models techniques for making buildings better able to avoid damage from high velocity winds. The model will stay in the community to continue to offer builders, architects and homeowners the opportunity to see these wind resistant building techniques first hand. Photo FEMA Corps/K.A. Anderson

Does FEMA pay attention to green issues? What do you like best about your FEMA job? How can I get a job with FEMA?—These were some of the questions students at the YouthBuild School in Providence, R.I., asked of the FEMA specialists who recently talked with them.

YouthBuild Providence is a workforce development school for students earning GEDs or high school diplomas. The program provides a supportive environment to help students achieve their academic goals and develop career skills.

The students were constructing a FEMA DAWG HAUS to model disaster-resistant building techniques, and, thanks to a presentation by FEMA External Affairs and Mitigation representatives from the Warwick Joint Field Office, they had the opportunity to learn how their project fit into the bigger picture of FEMA overall.

In a separate event, External Affairs and Mitigation, along with state counterparts, invited the media to cover the students’ activities to help publicize mitigation concepts. This resulted in stories by two television stations and one online media outlet.

Building a DAWG HAUS is an activity performed by high school students after many major disaster declarations—in this case, the Rhode Island declaration for Hurricane Sandy.

“In the dog house” means somebody is displeased with you. But a building constructed with the methods demonstrated by a FEMA DAWG HAUS is exactly where you want to be if winds are howling furiously, because the parts of that building are strongly attached using metal connectors, hurricane clips, steel- plate anchoring and gable-end bracing.

FEMA engineers came up with “DAWG HAUS” as an acronym— Disaster Avoidance With Good Home-Attenuating Unionization System—to name the model demonstrating these techniques. Following a major declaration, FEMA Mitigation Branch community education outreach often finds high school or college students who build a DAWG HAUS that stays in their community to continue to offer builders, architects and homeowners the opportunity to see these wind resistant building techniques first hand.

Adding to that activity the opportunity for students at YouthBuild Providence to integrate their work into the FEMA mission was a novel event. External Affairs at the JFO prepared a fast-paced presentation using a variety of media and interactive techniques to engage a high school audience. The presentation included a video about FEMA’s work in the nearby community of Westerly, R.I., and illustrations of the actions of the emergency management community through every phase of the disaster cycle. Numerous photos revealed how floods, mudslides, tornadoes, earthquakes and other destructive natural events impact individuals and communities. The presentation concluded with a stirring video presentation of FEMA’s mission statement.

While providing a basic overview of the disaster management cycle and the agency, the presentation also emphasized that FEMA is part of a team includes many other partners. The students were introduced to volunteer firefighters using a small boat to rescue people from their flooded homes in Texas, National Guard Air patrol service members preparing to keep a sky watch over a levee threatening to break in North Dakota, and volunteers serving meals to survivors and recovery workers in New Jersey.

“In addition to performing this valuable public service for FEMA, YouthBuild Providence students are gaining valuable real-world construction and disaster remediation skills by working on the DAWG HAUS,” said Anthony Hubbard, YouthBuild director. “Students have taken this opportunity and run with it.”

Last Updated: 
07/24/2014 - 16:00
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