Every family would like to be better equipped for disaster, but is that possible? What do you do when emergency strikes? In response to questions like these, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security launched the Ready campaign to inform Americans about how to prepare for emergencies like national disasters and terrorist attacks. Here, Erin Streeter, the acting director of Ready, talks to Parent & Child about Ready Kids (the child friendly extension of the campaign) and how it's never too early to take action.
Parent & Child: How did the U.S. Department of Homeland Security develop Ready Kids?
Erin Streeter: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security consulted a number of organizations experienced in education and children's health to develop Ready Kids, including the American Psychological Association, American Red Cross, and the U.S. Departments of Education and of Health and Human Services. They advised how to present emergency preparedness in a way that is understandable and appropriate for children ages 8-12. Children at this age are old enough to understand basic emergencies and discuss preparedness with their families. Ready Kids was created in response to requests from parents and teachers for information on emergency preparedness for kids.
P&C: What aspect of the campaign has been most effective in getting people interested, aware, and taking action?
Streeter: The Ready Kids in-school materials, developed with Scholastic Inc., have prompted 4th, 5th and 6th grade teachers to learn about Ready and educate their students about emergency preparedness. The in-school materials include a map of the United States that highlights different areas of the country and severe weather that can happen in those regions. In addition, there are activity sheets that offer lessons that meet national standards for language arts, social studies and geography. All of the materials provide a vehicle to explain important emergency preparedness information to children.
P&C: What kind of emergencies does the campaign help prepare children for?
Streeter: The Ready Kids Web site and in-school materials focus on weather-related emergencies. Parents and children can visit the site together to learn how to get an emergency supply kit, make a family emergency plan and be informed about the different emergencies that could happen where they live. The Ready Kids tool will stimulate a dialogue between parents and children about the importance of family preparedness.
P&C: Why is it important for children to learn about emergencies and emergency preparedness?
Streeter: Knowledge is power and educating children, ages 8-12, about potential emergencies helps them to feel confident and comfortable if an emergency occurs at school or at home. It's important to talk to kids about these topics in a non-threatening way.
P&C: How can parents teach their children about emergency situations without scaring them?
Streeter: One of the goals of Ready Kids is to provide parents with family-friendly, age-appropriate information that they can use to speak with children about potential emergencies. They can work together to get an emergency supply kit, make a family emergency plan, and be informed of the type of emergencies that can affect them.
P&C: What are some basic emergency facts parents should teach their children?
Streeter: It is important for parents to sit down with their children and designate a place to meet if they are separated during an emergency. This meeting place could be in the neighborhood near the school or the workplace. It's also important for all families to have an out-of-town contact so he or she can take roll call for the family members.
P&C: What are some basic things families should know NOT to do in an emergency?
Streeter: One of the big mistakes that Americans can make in the event of an emergency is taking luxuries and necessities for granted. In an emergency situation, people cannot rely on things like food being at a grocery store, the use of cell phones, or the ability to know where their loved ones are. The whole point of planning is to expect the unexpected, but all too often people don't prepare ahead.
P&C: The Ready Kids campaign targets children ages 8-12. Are there plans to incorporate into the campaign a section for younger children or teens?
Streeter: There are currently no plans to incorporate a section for younger children or teens at this time. However, communities are working with different age groups to spread the emergency preparedness message.
P&C: What's in the works for the future of this campaign?
Streeter: Ready will continue looking for partners such as Scholastic to share this important information with students, teachers and parents.
P&C: Please share with our readers any further information, facts, or stories about Ready Kids you think they might find useful.
Streeter: The Ready Kids materials feature the Ready Kids mascot character, a strong and confident mountain lion named Rex, who encourages children to help their families prepare for emergencies. Rex and his family — his wife Purrcilla, daughter Rory, and best friend, Hector Hummingbird — explain how families can take a few simple steps to prepare for all types of emergencies. The Ready Kids mascot was developed with The Advertising Council, which has a long and successful 65-year history of developing mascots for other educational programs including Smokey Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog.