When disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma happen, youth can feel frightened, confused, and insecure. Whether children experience trauma personally, simply see an event unfold on TV, or hear it discussed, it is important for us and our communities to be informed and ready to help them.
That is why more than 60 organizations, including Safe and Sound Schools, have affirmed the National Strategy for Youth Preparedness Education: Empowering, Educating, and Building Resilience. The National Strategy envisions a Nation where youth are empowered to prepare for and respond to disasters.
The National Strategy encourages organizations at national, state, and local levels to elevate the importance of youth preparedness, educate youth on actions they should take before, during and in the aftermath of a disaster, and spread the message of preparedness to their constituents and communities. Whether you are a teacher, parent, guardian, or student, you can help build your school and community’s preparedness. Read more about the National Strategy, or sign up to become an Affirmer organization.
Make School Preparedness a Key Component of Resilient Communities
Because children spend so much time in school, we should make school preparedness a key element, and the National Strategy does that. It is important to note that youth preparedness efforts must be age-appropriate, with educational materials tailored to children’s developmental levels. It is crucial that we prepare students without scaring them.
Programs throughout the United States are already preparing kids for disasters in meaningful ways. Many of these programs readily share their materials at no-cost. The Safe and Sound Schools program is an excellent example of how to help students and school communities to prepare. They offer free toolkits, workshops, and other digital resources, which are great ways to take the first steps toward ensuring your community and equipping youth for any disaster.
Some other options include the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Student Tools for Emergency Planning program or Save the Children’s Prep Rally. The FEMA Youth Preparedness Catalog is a comprehensive list of youth preparedness curricula, training, and programs from across the country. It is another smart place to start when looking to bring a youth preparedness program to your school. FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Technical Assistance Center can also answer any specific questions and help you find tools and resources that fit your situation—making the process much more manageable.
Promoting youth preparedness is a key step in making our schools safer, more resilient, and more secure. Look at what programs already exist, and then adapt them to suit your needs. Doing so will help make our schools safer and develop the next generation of prepared students.
For more information and resources about youth preparedness, check out www.ready.gov/youth-preparedness or email the Youth Preparedness Technical Assistance Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charlotte Porter, Director (A), Individual and Community Preparedness Division, Federal Emergency Management Agency
This last week I was invited to speak at the Violence Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Symposium in Corpus Christi, TX by Coastal Bend. I always love going to Texas, the people there are so warm, friendly and make me feel like family. I was really looking forward to speaking with this audience in particular because of its unique makeup. Usually at a conference, you get a gathering of individuals that all work in the same field. This group, however came from a wide array of professionals. We had first responders, medics, school administrations, business owners (i.e. movie theater owners) and so on. The team at Coastal Bend intentionally invited all these different groups together because they all had one thing in common, gatherings of large groups in their community. They understood the benefit that their community would gain by learning to be prepared for the unthinkable. I spoke alongside Dr. Tau Braun, violence prevention specialist and advisor for Safe and Sound Schools, and Robert Martin, expert in threat assessment and Safe and Sound Schools board member. I’ve presented with them previously. They always share invaluable information. Having such a variety of different groups in the audience allowed for the most amazing and diverse questions! It was an honor to speak in Corpus Christi and learn so much from all who attended. I am so proud of the work they are doing to ensure their community is prepared when tragedy strikes.
Alissa Parker, Co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools
May 15-21 is the 42nd Annual National EMS Week
With school safety concerns top of mind in many school communities, an increasing number are taking necessary steps to develop and improve emergency preparedness plans. As key players in community safety, our emergency medical technicians and providers are an ever important resource to school communities. This week in celebration of EMS week, we shine a light on EMS providers and encourage our Safe and Sound community to collaborate with these professionals for safer schools.
What is EMS?
EMS stands for Emergency Medical Services. EMS professionals provide basic and advanced medical care when people experience accidents or medical emergencies.
Who works for EMS?
EMS is made up of trained professionals including 9-1-1 dispatchers, emergency medical responders, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), advanced EMTs, and paramedics. Each EMS practitioner performs a role in a medical emergency and may be a paid worker or community volunteer. EMS care can be provided by police or fire departments, hospitals, private ambulance companies, or a combination of these.
What is EMS Week?
According to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), EMS Week dates back to 1974 when President Gerald Ford declared November 3 -10, “National Medical Services Week.” For the following four years, the observance continued until it was re-instituted by ACEP in 1982.
In 1992, EMS Week was moved to the third week of May, celebrating the important work EMS practitioners do to our communities. EMS Week brings communities together to honor those that provide day-to-day lifesaving services. Whether you publicly recognize your local EMS department with a catered lunch or award ceremony, or write a personalized thank you letter, EMS Week is the perfect time to recognize and reach out to your local EMS practitioners.
Why should we celebrate EMS Week?
In addition to providing day-to-day basic and advanced emergency care, EMS practitioners also assist in educating communities on safety and health care. For a school, that may mean providing CPR, first-aid, and preparedness to school staff or teaching children about health care, injury prevention, and 9-1-1 services.
How can schools work together with EMS?
School safety is a community effort. It takes all hands on deck. Schools can work together with EMS practitioners by:
- Inviting local EMS departments to visit the school – This allows the departments to become familiarized with the layout of the campus and its staff. Further, it allows students to become comfortable and accustomed to the sight of public safety figures, like EMS practitioners on school grounds.
- Taking a trip – Tour the local 9-1-1 dispatch center or schedule an ambulance tour for students at your school to increase understanding and familiarity between EMS personnel and students.
- Meeting to develop and update emergency preparedness plans – When it comes to emergency/crisis preparedness plans, schools should work together with public safety departments to develop strategies and plans for different types of emergencies and threats.
- Participating in CPR and first-aid training – According the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, the national average response time to an emergency is 5-6 minutes. During an emergency, every minute counts. Learning CPR and first-aid are invaluable skills to have, especially for school community members.
Access our AUDIT Toolkit and check out “A Welcome Invitation” to learn about School Safety Socials for first responders.
Sources: ACEP, NAEMT, National School Safety and Security Services, U.S. Department of Justice
Are you prepared? It’s a timely question for school communities and families. Across the country spring brings warm weather and more outdoor opportunities. With the gorgeous weather and added outdoor time we all enjoy, our communities and schools face increased weather and violence related incidents, as well as an annual uptick in physical injuries.
Safe and Sound Schools is proud to join FEMA as a National Strategy Affirmer, supporting nationwide youth preparedness and education.
This Saturday, April 30, we celebrate America’s PrepareAthon with countless other national organizations working to keep America’s communities prepared for safety! We invite you to celebrate with us. There are many ways you can work together as a family and within your community to increase preparedness and awareness to keep yourselves and those you love safe.
It’s easier than you think! Here are just a few ideas to get you started and share with family, friends, at school, and work:
- 1. Access Alerts and Warnings–Take a moment to explore emergency notification systems in your community and school. Register yourself and your family members to receive critical emergency information.
2. Conduct an Exercise–This could be as simple as an in-home fire drill and family meet-up or helping plan one in your child’s school community. Consider reaching out to neighbors to share plans and information to boost your safety capability during an emergency.
3. Update Emergency Supplies–First aid kits, Go Bags, and food storage are great ways to keep critical items at hand when you need them. Take stock and organize together.
4. Make a Family Plan–Gather important information and decide on meeting places & communication channels. Put your plan on paper together with Family Plan Emergency Cards.
5. Take a Class–Sign up for a CPR or First Aid class in your community. If you are already certified, consider a refresher or advanced course.
For more fun and easy ways to stay safe, visit https://community.fema.gov/take-action/activities and join us in preparing for safety with America’s PrepareAthon!
-Michele Gay, Safe and Sound Schools
Preparedness is a hard word to digest. It’s long and has a stale taste as it leaves your lips. As a concept, it is always just a little too ambiguous (i.e., How do I know when I’m really prepared?) or too overwhelming (i.e., The 165.5 Steps to Safety).
Preparedness, by any other name, is much more simple—it’s being ready. Unlike preparing for emergencies, preparing for everyday things is easier and often happens without forethought. We prepare for the day by “making sure the kids have both shoes and a lunch when they leave for school” or we prepare for success by “studying to pass our tests and graduate.” Preparation comes easily and makes the most sense when we do it to provide for, protect and support the people we love so that they can be safe, healthy and successful.
The fault in our logic is that, because we don’t know when emergencies might happen, we don’t necessarily prepare for them in the way that we should. The devastating aspect of this lack of preparation is that our children—the people we love the most—are often the most vulnerable individuals in times of crises. As a nation we are largely under-prepared to protect children in emergencies.
- Each day, 69 million children are in school or child care, away from their parents should disaster strike. Still 21 states and the DC lack basic standards for protecting children in these settings.
- Less than half of American families have an emergency plan.
- And although two-thirds of parents are concerned about the risk their child faces from disasters or school shootings, 67 percent don’t know how often and what types of emergency drills are practiced at school.
Keeping children safe requires the cooperation and involvement of the entire community. It involves emergency managers, government, organizations, schools, care providers, and families who want children to be safe no matter where they are. Between the systems, plans and protocols, YOU, as a parent or care giver, play the most critical role keeping children safe and securing their future.
We need to be champions for our children—if we aren’t, who will be?
Don’t wait until it’s too late to take action.
- Be familiar with your community’s emergency protocols, including communication and warning systems.
- Ask about schools’ and caregivers’ emergency plans; ensure that everyone who cares for your child(ren) has your current emergency contact information.
- Make a family emergency plan that accounts for different types of emergencies and identifies different evacuation routes and meet-up locations.
- Be an advocate for children’s safety, raising your voice about creating emergency plans at state and local levels that account for children’s unique needs.
Fostering a culture of preparedness begins with children. It’s about starting the dialogue about emergencies early in life, making education a priority, and creating an environment where preparedness is expected, not an afterthought tacked on to the latest disaster. By integrating these life-saving skills and lessons from the beginning, we can turn the tide, sparking a movement and building a generation of citizens who are prepared for disaster.
If that ugly preparedness word still plagues you and you’re tempted to avoid it or put it off, I urge you do it now–do it for your kids. They deserve a safe and empowered childhood. They deserve the opportunity to talk about, learn, and build resilience before an emergency strikes.
Whether we admit it or not, saying, “I prepared to keep you safe” is saying, “I love you and protecting you is important to me.”
-Sarah Thompson, Associate Director, Get Ready Get Safe, Save the Children