Congratulations to Tyler Newsom, son of MBCP David Newsom and winner of the DRI Foundation Scholarship! Tyler was selected in part because of the strength of his essay on incorporating preparedness education and training into schools. You can read it here:
America’s disaster preparedness and awareness within our communities today seems to be mostly based on “out of sight, out of mind”. This is due to our short-term memory of recent events and the attitude that “it won’t happen to me”. But we couldn’t be more wrong, as there is usually little to no warning to the pending disasters that Mother Nature may throw our way or man-made disaster that seem to be on the increase, whether that is in the form of terrorism or threat of a new World War.
The only way to properly prepare for these threats is to build a program that begins with our youth to provide ongoing education making awareness and preparedness part of our ongoing lives. We need to face this opportunity head on, move onward with the removal of any obstacles, and to ensure continued improvements on this type of program going forward. A major issue within America today is that we generally have little to no idea how to prepare due to the lack of education in this area. We rely completely on the government to come to our aid if anything terrible occurs, but as we are not prepared to help we wind up getting in the way.
What we need to realize up front is that disasters can leave us without critical supplies for an extended amount of time, and while we wait for the government to assist we would have to needlessly do without. A prime example of this was when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana. Due to the massive scale of this event, the government was not able to help many residents who remained stranded for more than a week, which resulted in greater loss of life and increased the recovery time for the local businesses and communities.
Some questions we need to ask ourselves are: Why are the citizens not taking the time to prepare? What will we do the next time a disaster hits our community? Why are we not working together to train and prepare? How will we survive if we have not been taught too? These are questions we should be asking ourselves now, while we can act upon them, not later when it is too late.
The program I would like to suggest to aid in preparation of our communities starts with our youth, by making this a normal part of our lives and sharing in the responsibility. This includes three tiers of ongoing education, dealing with our youth to educate everyone on what to do in these situations. This would then tie into the existing CERT programs making for a full engagement of preparedness throughout our lives.
Tier I – Elementary School: The first tier would deal with elementary school kids, by adding to their school curriculum education on preparedness/awareness. They would be taught what to do in simple scenarios, just like how they are taught what to do when a tornado or a fire occurs while at their school. This new program would have the same affect as the current drills by teaching the kids what to do when disasters happen, hopefully while having some fun in the process.
The kids would be given coloring books illustrating what to do when a disaster occurs, and would be told to take the book home to involve their parents. This would allow them to plan out what they would do as a family making sure that everyone gets back home safely. Bringing the parents into the education process is key for successful preparedness at home.
Tier II – Middle School: The second tier would take place at the middle school level and because the kids are older and more mature, the scenarios would be more realistic. They would contain real life scenarios, whether natural or man-made and they would be region specific based on where they are located within the country. These would focus on the typical impact and responses related to these types of events, as well as workshop activities that involve acting out what you are supposed to do in each scenario. This would make for realistic scenarios, leaving the students with as close to real life experiences as possible, and would improve on their knowledge of how to respond to these events.
Tier III – High School: The third tier would take place at the high school level and involve engagement and education with local emergency services. It is critical that we involve the professional services teams, as we need to ensure we are able to work together moving forward. Being young adults and taking this responsibility seriously would add to the passion needed to make things happen as a community, instead of standing by and watching as individuals.
The program should involve how to perform triage, first aid, CPR, fire extinguisher training and other basic support needed to help save lives or support emergency services of all types. The students would have field trips to participate in drills as trained responders or simply acting as victims. This would provide for improved awareness and training based on the scenarios.
The High School Seniors would have the most involvement in offsite disaster drills containing the integration of many emergency services, including CERT. These exercises would be very similar to the exercise’s that take place today between the CERT and emergency services teams around the United States. Upon completion of these studies and exercises, and when the student shows mastery of preparedness for disasters, they would receive a CERT/STUDENT symbol on their driver’s license. Just like how the organ donor system works today. That way if a real event occurs, the student could assist in the response and cleanup efforts with the identification needed to show that they are knowledgeable and trained to effectively perform it safely.
Cooperation is key between all parties to ensure that the disaster is taken care of as smoothly and safely as possible. We owe it to ourselves to be prepared, aware and trained in order to aid in our own recovery and not to simply put this off onto someone else without helping ourselves. A timely and effective response is key to the recovery of our communities and businesses.
This program would be brought forth to the necessary government bodies like FEMA and the US Department of Education for support and funding nationwide. It would take time to develop and would evolve over many years, but in the end we would be working together to solve this issue. Learning to prepare for disasters is just as important as learning how to do math or history, because if the citizens do not know how to prepare themselves for a disaster then we will continue to see steadily larger losses of life and greater impact to our communities.
The overall goal of this program is to bring awareness and preparation to every citizen in America, as well as to bring the governmental disaster recovery agencies and the citizens within the United States closer together during disasters. Starting with our nation’s youth moving forward into the future, America will steadily become a stronger nation as more people learn what to do in these scenarios and when one occurs, we will be able to bounce back faster than ever before. With our nation’s youth working along side by side with parents, communities and emergency agencies, we will ensure fast and speedy recovery from these events.
In close, this program would bring the citizens and the emergency services teams closer together, to ensure minimal loss of life and the best possible recovery following a disaster. Educating our youth is going to be key to creating a bright future for America.