National Summit on Youth Preparedness
At the end of the 20th century, an estimated 66.5 million children each year were affected by a natural disaster, and this number will most likely increase, owing to shifts within society and large climate changes."
— Penrose A, Takaki M (2006); Save the Children UK (2007); and Save the Children UK (2009) 1
On September 15, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Education, and the American Red Cross held a National Summit on Youth Preparedness to develop a framework for a national strategy on grades K-12 preparedness education and to increase youth preparedness knowledge, skills, and behaviors.
This summit brought together participants from the fields of youth communications; youth-serving programs; developers of youth preparedness education; practitioners from the state, tribal, and local levels; and academia. The summit shared how schools can help promote community resilience in disasters, how students will best learn preparedness skills, and how different countries around the world are helping youth prepare for and respond to emergencies.
In conjunction with the Summit, FEMA released a report, Bringing Youth Preparedness Education to the Forefront: A Literature Review and Recommendations (PDF, 23 Pages). The report summarizes research and evaluations in the field of youth disaster preparedness and education, including youth preparedness education, school programs and curricula, and community engagement for youth preparedness. The report concludes with recommended practices for youth disaster education and research, drawn from Kevin R. Ronan and David M. Johnston’s book, Promoting Community Resilience in Disasters: The Role for Schools, Youth, and Families (2005).
A selection of recommended practices for youth disaster education:
- Promote interactive activities within families, such as the development of home emergency plans or home-based activities that start with simple, easy activities and progress to other tasks.
- Help parents understand that their emotional response has a direct effect on how children cope with hazards, and help parents develop coping strategies so that they can more positively affect their children in terms of recovery and resilience.
- Use interactive visual aids, such as computer games, websites, movies, television shows, and videos; these methods actively engage children and encourage their participation in disaster preparedness activities.
- Give special consideration to bilingual children, as they can serve as conduits of information to their friends, family, and community members who do not fully understand English.
- Practice preparedness responses using in- and out-of-class simulations and through experiential exercises; use mock scenarios to test children’s skill levels and reinforce those skills.
- Offer opportunities for children to voice their opinions and concerns surrounding disaster preparedness. Through a series of open forums, town halls, or even telephone or online conferences, communities need to be more open to allowing children to play a special role in planning for what actions to take in the event of an emergency.
1 Penrose A, Takaki M. (2006) Children’s rights in emergencies and disasters. The Lancet. 367: 698-699; Save the Children UK (2007) Legacy of Disasters: The impact of climate change on children; Save the Children UK (2009) Feeling the Heat: Child Survival in a Changing Climate.