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How Youth Can Move the Needle of Emergency Preparedness


When it comes to creating meaningful and impactful change, youth are some of the most important members in a community. During the FEMA Youth Preparedness Council annual summit, I sat down with Hailey Starr, a Council member from the Muckleshoot reservation in the Pacific Northwest. I wanted to learn more about Hailey’s work as a member of the Council, and what she was doing to improve the level of preparedness on the reservation where she lives.

Hailey’s interest in emergency management and preparedness began when she joined Muckleshoot Teen CERT. If you’re not familiar, CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Teams. “I realized that the reservation isn’t prepared,” Hailey said. “I wanted to do something to change that.” Her experiences as a Muckleshoot Teen CERT member led to her selection as a member of FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council, where she is required to complete a self-selected project, act as an ambassador for youth preparedness, and liaise to FEMA on the youth perspective.

One of the many projects Hailey is involved in as part of her work with the Council is a video on active shooter awareness, which she produced and assisted with writing. This alone was enough to impress me, but then she revealed that the video’s been so well received that the school board wants to share the video with other schools, use it for staff training, and translate it into the Lashootseed dialect. Not only that, but it’s also the first video in a series she’s planning on producing on emergency preparedness – the next two topics are earthquakes and wildfires.

Here’s why Hailey said she decided to produce the active shooter awareness video:

After [the shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School], a lot of youth on the reservation were scared and felt unprepared. The video helped relieve kids’ stress and helped them feel better, because it let them know what to do in an active shooter situation. It made them feel more prepared.

Anytime you show things happening in places where they might actually happen, it becomes a lot more meaningful. And if it’s cheesy, kids won’t pay attention to it or take is seriously.

As she told me more about the video, it became clear that she worked hard to make it as realistic as possible. Hailey also wanted to keep the video interesting, as she knows people have short attention spans.

In addition to producing preparedness videos, Hailey is participating in a project to make emergency backpacks for the elders in the community and is collaborating with her school librarian on an article about what to do in a windstorm. She’s also working on coordinating an emergency preparedness fair in the spring, which will offer preparedness information and hands-on exhibits.

Finally, Hailey is engaged in an emergency management exercise that will take place at the end of the school year. While the details have yet to be finalized, it’s likely that the scenario will involve an earthquake and require participants to shelter in place. Her eyes lit up with excitement as she told me about her ideas for how to make the scenario as true-to-life as possible. “There’ll be emergency alerts, a police presence, everything,” Hailey said. “The community’s really supportive, because they understand the importance of being prepared.”

It’s clear that Hailey is an impressive individual who is making her community better prepared as part of her work with the Youth Preparedness Council. But I’m not the only one that’s impressed. The National Congress of American Indians has invited Hailey to present at their annual conference in October, where Indian Country comes together to advance the most important discussions regarding policy and programs. I hope  Hailey’s example shows how youth can be a powerful force in creating meaningful and impactful change in their community.

Last Updated: 
06/02/2017 - 09:21


Amanda, Great Post! I couldn't agree more! I do feel that a great number of our communities young people have a heart to make a difference in our community, but the area is "emergency preparation " is not at the forefront, although equally important. I am inspired by your story about Hailey, what an impressive young woman. I would like to see the youth be more involved with emergency preparation in regards to environmental issues. There is much room for improvement in regards to securing and preparing our surroundings to protect against environmental cotastrophies in the event of natural disasters.. Thank you again for sharing. All American Environmental Lake Hopatcong NJ