Congratulations to Daniel Pelis, winner of the DRI Foundation’s 2016 Scholarship for high school seniors! Daniel was selected in part because of the strength of his essay on what proactive steps he would initiate to help add to our ability to prevent and recover from destructive disasters, which you can read here:
As a Boy Scout, the concept of Preparedness is something that is constantly stressed. It is the motto for the Boy Scouts of America, and it is incorporated into most of the activities we take part in. Among the many requirements needed to reach the rank of Eagle Scout, one must complete the First Aid and Emergency Preparedness merit badges. While earning these badges, I was required to created escape routines and bags for emergencies. Much of the information I learned through these merit badges is important, but foreign to most citizens. I believe the reason for this is because most people no longer act without incentive.
My idea is to create some incentives for citizens who involve themselves in emergency preparedness. This could include activities such as receiving training in first aid or volunteering to help at an emergency shelters during a disaster. This is a task that would be done at the local government level. Another task that I would present to the local government would be for the government to more frequently advertise where emergency shelters are located. The locations of local emergency shelters are commonly unknown to the average citizen and are not widely advertised. Doing my own research, I had a difficult time finding the shelter in my county. I believe the local government could hold a fair at the emergency shelters of some kind during the month of September since it is National Preparedness Month. It is also around the same time school starts so it could help get kids to think about emergency preparedness more. It is important to have a lot of the events done at the local level since it will help the communities to focus the events to disasters they would most likely see.
An act that I would take at the state level refers to a new requirement that was imposed for high school seniors. Recently it has become a requirement for seniors to become certified in compression CPR in order to graduate. I believe it would be effective to extend requirements such as these to younger children. The courses could be first aid based and would result in a generation that understands how to act in the event of an emergency. Also, the fairs that I previously mentioned could incorporate different aspects of emergency preparedness. This could include fire safety, first aid, and businesses could get involved by sponsoring the event. The states could help coordinate cooperation between different communities helping to bring assistance more quickly if one part of the state is affected by a disaster.
At the Federal level, I would see that the Federal Government would provide overall guidance and funding. This could include asking major networks and the news to use public service time to make people aware of topics in first aid or what to stock in case of a disaster. The President could ask celebrities to donate their time to make these ads. We could also ask students to serve in preparedness groups as a way to help pay off their student loans. There are many specialties such as medical students, nurses, social workers, and engineering students whose education could be used to help in responding to disasters, maybe as part of FEMA. This would be similar to the ROTC or National Guard programs in the military. They would gain great work experience, while helping to reduce their college debt. Favorable tax breaks on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, or first aid kits could help get people to install and maintain them.
I think it is important to start getting people used to thinking about preparedness earlier. The earlier those children are introduced to preparedness and service to their community, the more that they will adopt these behaviors into their adulthood. Then we could start to introduce preparedness days or weeks throughout the year instead of just once a month. This could help the level of preparedness, and reduce the need for incentives. It is my hope that by introducing some of these ideas, people will become more aware of the potential dangers and maybe less people will die or be affected by these events.