Did you know that children represent nearly 25 percent of the U.S. population? By educating America’s youth about disaster preparedness, we can empower them with knowledge and skills to lessen their anxieties pre-disaster and build their confidence in contributing to their family and community’s emergency preparedness. Children are key to family disaster planning; young children are more likely to share what they have learned with their adults and kickstart integral conversations that can help families become disaster ready.
Families and schools are encouraged to visit FEMA’s Ready Kids. This site offers preparedness curriculum, games, and opportunities for kids of all ages to get involved in their communities. It also makes available plenty of print and online materials to deliver interactive courses to teens and younger children in the fourth grade and higher. Ready Kids features practical tools for family disaster planning that engages everyone – big or small, these resources help make disaster planning easy and fun for the whole family.
Interactive Games & Story Telling
Activity books at Ready Kids present facts about disaster types and specific preparations required for each emergency. The site offers games, such as Disaster Master, where children earn points to achieve master level preparedness. The Build a Kit game centers on a check list of family-specific items a child can create. The Ready 2 Help exercise teaches children the steps they can take to make a difference until help arrives.
For younger audiences, the Ready campaign, in partnership with the American Red Cross, created Pedro the Penguin. Pedro’s adventures tell the story of how to be prepared – how to plan, build a disaster kit, and stay safe. Through Pedro’s lens, young children can learn about different hazards and how to be prepared for all emergencies in a way that is less scary, and easily digestible for young ones.
Ready Kids offers educators and organizations resources and programming, available in several languages, that includes downloadable back-to-school lesson plans and teaching materials for schools referred to as STEP or Student Tools for Emergency Planning. There is guidance regarding funding opportunities and how-to launch community disaster preparedness classes. Educators play an important role in sharing emergency preparedness tools – through these easy-to-implement resources, schools, nonprofit organizations, community centers, and the like can teach children lifesaving skills that build stronger, more resilient communities.
The Ready campaign also addresses the unique needs—and capabilities—of teens. The Youth Preparedness Council (YPC) brings together youth leaders interested in supporting disaster preparedness and making a difference in their communities by completing disaster preparedness projects nationally and locally. The Council also provides young people an opportunity to present their perspectives, feedback, and opinions to FEMA staff. YPC members regularly meet with FEMA staff and attend the annual YPC Summit.
Teens also can join a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program, a national program of volunteers trained in disaster preparedness and emergency response in communities across the nation. Through Teen CERT, they can serve their community and help make a difference at school and home.
Children often have different needs than adults following a disaster. Better understanding the situation and feeling a part of the solution will help them cope with the emergency and support the household as they navigate next steps to recovery. Following a disaster, like a hurricane or tornado, schools may be closed for an extended period. Children’s familiarity with disaster preparedness may help them develop routine and structure in what may be a chaotic environment.
Additional resources for children and teens are available below:
- Talking to Children About Disasters (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event (SAMHSA)
- How to Help Children Cope with Disasters (Save the Children)
- Helping Children with Disabilities During an Emergency (CDC)
- The National Center for Child Traumatic Stress
- National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement
- Journey of Hope (Save the Children)
- Children and Disasters (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- Helping Children Cope After a Disaster (FEMA Accessible)