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Incorporate Preparedness in School Curriculums

Disaster preparedness should be taught as part of the school curriculum for children of all ages. I remember being taught about 911, "Stop, Drop, and Roll" and "Only YOU can prevent Forest Fires" in grade school. My homework was to find my household fire extinguisher, check the batteries in the smoke detector, and create a fire escape plan with my parents. These lessons were incorporated in lessons on science and spatial reasoning (making a map of the house). There is so much money spent on curriculum design and yet preparedness is not taught in the classroom. Since FEMA HQ is right across the street from the Department of Education, why not develop that relationship to get developmentally-appropriate preparedness lessons to the teachers and the students?

I would recommend building in flexibility so the states teach geographically-relevant preparedness tips - he all-Hazards "Drill Days" are a waste of time for teachers and students. If FEMA would make the commitment to education for a long-term program with the Dept of Ed, and let the program grow with teacher/student input, it could really help in future disasters. This could be is an incredibly effective connection from the government to the kids and thus to adults who may need a reminder to check those detector batteries and create evacuation plans.

Submitted by 3 years ago

Comments (44)

  1. I have found Risk Watch to be a great program that is easily incorporated into established curriculum. It is grade based and provides preparedness education while complimenting other educational areas.

    3 years ago
  2. Great point Maggie!

    In addition, think about the millions of dollars school districts spend on athletics, yet very few spend a dime on getting the students certified in CPR/AED training or basic first aid.

    3 years ago
    1. Yes. I agree with that. There are some people who train in CPR & FIRST AID every year. There are curtain jobs that require this certification annually. It is often a job requirement at various utility, heavy equipment and chemical companies.

      2 years ago
  3. Great idea. We actually teach CPR to all seventh graders in our school district, and we train high school teachers to be able to teach it in high school. We are also breaking barriers and getting CERT into some of our high schools.

    3 years ago
    1. I discussed incorporating CERT into high schools with my local EM manager a few months ago. I'd love to learn more about your efforts.

      2 years ago
    2. In DC we have an after-school Emergency Preparedness course geared toward elementary school students and we are in the process of conceptualizing how to take aspects of CERT training to target high school students. Thank you for sharing this idea.

      2 years ago
  4. The children are the future the more they are exposed to a culture of preparedness the better for all !!

    3 years ago
  5. I would take this a step further, and share not only the preparedness message, but also provide ways for the educational community to get connected with the hazards and hazard experts within each field. Flooding, Earthquakes, Snow, Wildfires, Tornadoes, Hail, etc are topics that schools already teach about. By providing this opportunity to connect not only with the preparedness message, but also with people in those fields, it improves the quality and variety in school curriculum, provides an avenue for discussion and interaction, and helps to improve education about the specific hazards that are faced in our communities.

    There is a definite need for simple preparedness messages as so many others have stated already. However there is also the need for awareness and education over what we need to be prepared for, so that when students and families see those things occurring, they know that it's time to implement the preparedness lessons.

    2 years ago
    1. maggiemeyer26 Idea Submitter

      I absolutely agree. And there are more aspects to the schools than just the curriculum where we can involve the students and teachers to teach about the impacts of disaster. When I was colunteering in shelters post-Katrina, the high schools sent their sports teams over to help. They moved boxes, served food, and hung out with the kids in the shelter, playing pick-up games to keep people active and get spirits up. There are so many ways to incorporate the preparedness culture in schools and leverage that connection post-disaster, but these ideas should be shared on a broader level.

      It amazes me that FEMA has an office of Faith-Based Initiatives to reach out to churches that are NOT networked to the Federal government but still hasn't accessed the school systems.

      2 years ago
  6. ...and parents can learn from their children.

    2 years ago
  7. The disaster prep curriculum should be implemented via social studies as part of citizenship education. FEMA should fund disaster prep and amateur radio clubs in schools to teach citizens essential skills for readiness.

    2 years ago
    1. Preparedness curriculum can be taught in many subject areas. In Texas, a group is working to find existing preparedness lessons and align them to the current essential knowledge and skills for TX schools. We've found that science, social studies, language, health, and math serve this topic well. Check out existing curricula on the web. There are a lot of good ones, especially Scholastic, National Geographic, Masters of Disaster, Discovery Education, etc. They are all FREE!

      2 years ago
  8. This idea is high priority. Working for a university I can tell you that the students we have on campus did not go through the same preparedness steps that I went through 15 years ago. There is a disconnect with our children that has potential detrimental effects as they journey to become an adult. Once they are an adult with their own children, the cycle continues. Much like many problems our country is facing right now--solution starts with the children!...

    2 years ago
  9. Just as high schools, in most rural areas, have agriculture classes and FFA Chapters for students who want to farm ... high schools in high risk areas should have emergency preparedness & disaster recovery classes for students who desire a career in one of these areas. Climate change, increased terrorism, and other factors are expected to cause far more major disasters, worldwide. It's time to prepare our students for careers in the next growth industry, disaster recovery.

    2 years ago
  10. School children could also be taught US National Grid. It is easy and it would be fun. This supposedly occurs in the UK with British & Irish grid, though I have no confirmation of it.

    Every US elementary school graduate should know USNG and every high school graduate should know CPR.

    2 years ago
  11. I submitted this in the previous forum but it works here.

    Well, Katrina lessons in preparedness (nursing homes) and management (local, state and federal) should not be ignored. I thought we may have revisited 1938 but Irene brought her own agenda.

    In high school we had gym and Health education. Perhaps a semester of emergency management with emphasis on how to think and manage rather then event training. Or part of civics or social study with Public Safety and Works with extended looks at NGO's and VOAD's activities.

    2 years ago
  12. This is not a new idea; it's been suggested for well over three decades. The issues going on here is that school curricula are based on teaching standards of science, math, language arts, social studies, fine arts, and so forth, as prescribed by states -- not the Federal Government.

    Lessons taught in schools must meet state standards of education, which is why the comprehensive "Masters of Disaster" curriculum was developed by the American Red Cross in 1999, and was a model that the NFPA "Risk Watch" was based on. (I know, I was there!)

    With the current "No Child Left Behind" Act, which requires teachers to meet performance levels based on attaining state standards of education, then UNLESS one provides materials that are aligned with state standards of education that enable teachers to teach core subjects THROUGH lessons about natural disasters, then "teaching disaster preparedness in schools" will remain a dream, and not reality.

    It's really a struggle of competing priorities that are not well understood by two "communities of practice" -- the EM Community and the Educators. We can, and have, worked together well in some areas, but there is definitely room for improvement when we understand each other better and adapt our approaches to meet each other's needs and priorities.

    2 years ago
    1. a group of educators got together in Oregon and demonstrated how Risk Watch aligned with the state standards. Masters in Disaster - such a great program - I am sure folks could align that as well...Thanks for your work on these programs.

      2 years ago
    2. You are too modest Rocky. Master of Disaster is THE curriculum of choice for teaching preparedness in schools. There is really no need to re-create the wheel at federal expense when this excellent product from the American Red Cross works perfectly.

      2 years ago
  13. Many School districts do not understand the concept of emergency preparedness. The idea that regardless of the event the school district remains responsible for the students entrusted to their care until they are properly reunited with the appropriate legal guardian is not one that is universally understood. I have had Board level administrators tell me that when an event occurs "the police or fire department will take over" or that "FEMA will take over and tell us what to do". This is more prevalent than many even know. Most school emergency plans stop at evacuate the building...and that is where the planning actually has to begin. We need to provide specialized training, certification and assistance for schools to enable administration and staff to understand how an event can be managed, what necessary steps they have to develop and how to incorporate public agencies in supporting and assisting with effective planning, such as MUO's. Without trained input by those educated in the emergency response and planning process educators are at a loss a to what it is all about.

    2 years ago
  14. Many of us complete our curriculum before the standardized test and have a degree of flexibility after the test. That month or two would be a great time to implement a disaster prep unit as part of citizenship.

    2 years ago
  15. Disaster preparedness as part of a school curriculum could help establish a basis for better awareness. It needs to be standardized with best practices. The emergency COMMUNITIES needs to come together and decide on those best practices. IE, "duck and cover under a desk in an earthguake situation OR take cover anongside your desk.

    2 years ago
  16. Many of the posts here address inclusion of disaster education in the cirriculum of the students, however many of the staff and adminstration are far from educated in this field. Most districts do not understand the process and believe that they don't have to except for what their State Department of Education requires of them, i.e. fire drills and related natural disaster drills-earthquake or tornado. What is really needed to spearhead this area is education for the Staff, Educators, Administrations and those involved with the daily running of any building or district. Each plan should be tailored not to the district but to the building meeting the specific needs of that culture as well as tying in with the over all district plans. Once this is acconpmlished then educating the students on the nuances becomes understandable and the capabilities of the educators increases. Knowing ICS, NIMS and the related protocols as they apply to their buildings and student populations enables the Educators to incorporate the more basic "Stop, Drop and Roll" or "Duck and Cover" and expand upon them. Emergency planning begins at the "Evacuate the Building" Stage and that is where many district plans end.

    2 years ago
  17. Sounds like a great idea, but with National mandates holding teachers accountable based on student performance this idea is highly unlikely to gain tractionwithin school systems. There are exceptions in some school districts as others have pointed out, but I would have to believe without having teacher and principal perspectives and only emergency management professionals weighing in; we are not going to get a true sense of how realistic this goal would be. The reality is school faculty have their bigger problems such as teaching kids to read and have little time to spend on teaching emergency preparedness. Do a true survey of teachers and schools and not selected examples of how this works in a small sample of areas that people are likely to point out that worked.

    2 years ago
    1. Disaster preparedness could also be incorporated into science as well as reading curriculums.

      2 years ago
  18. Emergency Preparedness might be included as a Social Studies subject. Students might better appreciate their educations if receiving academic credit for studying why they participate in drills and how to manage their own personal safety when times demand it.

    2 years ago
  19. I've always been a supporter adding 'preparedness' education in the primary and secondary school level. You could ABSOLUTELY add Basic USAR and even BLS to children as young as 7th grade. I was under the impression years ago that because of the sheer NATURE of these activities, putting a child into a simulation was taboo. Has anyone looked at the games these children play at home lately? There are games out there that are MORE GRAPHIC then the last two tornado responses I was on! So I don't think that's an issue any longer. I also think its time that we, as a collective include the children in Disaster Simulations and drills. Even if its just as an observer, they can get themselves comfortable with procedures and REAL-LIFE examples of what, quite frankly, may be a very real event to come sometime in the near future. I dare say that given the right guidance and objectives some of the kids I HAVE worked with on scenes, could and should feel the responsibility to assist and even take a leadership role in the first instances of an event.

    2 years ago
  20. From my knowledge it's not enough time to give proper preparedness training to students at lower education levels. Teachers spends a lot time on lesson planning collaboration techniques. I like to see it to be part of some type of credit hours for graduation.

    2 years ago
  21. Absolutely a great opportunity. I would hope that the curriculum would be designed after completing a hazard analysis which will point to the specific risks in your area. Children will teach adults. Think about how during the impending flu pandemic, how children were taught to cough in their sleeves. Now adults mimic that same good cough behavior.

    2 years ago
  22. The Student Tools for Emergency Preparedness (STEP) program is a great start. Many schools in Region 1 have figured out how to implement it, even given the curriculum constraints. We even piloted this in my kids' private school. Check in with Russ Webster, R1 FPC, before anyone reinvents the wheel.

    2 years ago
  23. A lot of valid points have been brought up in this blog regarding implementing emergency and disaster preparedness in our schools. But, it isn't impossible. We have been teaching fire and life safety, ex: Stop, Drop & Roll, etc. for years!

    A friend of mine once said that we "need to change the DNA of our kids" by teaching them the potentially life-saving skills included in emergency and disaster preparedness training. What prevents us from doing that is the fact that the generation of educators now teaching our kids haven't learned the importance of this kind of training themselves!! How can the educators and school board members who run our schools and classrooms now be expected to accept the importance of this kind of training when they never learned it themselves.

    Robertjbuck2006 was right when he said that MANY of the computer games that our kids play today are FAR MORE graphic than anything that can be included in emergency and disaster training. Another fact is that there are limited numbers of Firefighters, EMTs & Paramedics and Police Officers for the populations they serve. They can't be in all places at all times, ESPECIALLY during and emergency or disaster. Citizens MUST take personal responsibility to be parpared and able to take care of themselves until emergency first responders are able to get to them and help them.

    Best way to start is to do an analysis of the potential hazards in your area and how they would affect that area. Then take that information to the schools and help them learn how they can be a part of educating the kids to make safer choices during an emergency. The kids will then take that information back home to their parents and train them!

    The kids are our future! We MUST do everything in our power to give them the ALL life skills they will need to be healthy, safe and prosper!

    2 years ago
  24. Hi Everyone,

    Here at FEMA Region 6, we are working with the Texas Citizen Corps and the Texas School Safety Center to provide preparedness education in schools. There are many ways to do this: classroom curriculum, service learning projects, career/technical education, after school activities, etc. Also, curriculum already exists that has been matched to subject matter and state approved curricula. Two of the best are Ready Classroom and Masters of Disaster (Red Cross). These programs address several grade levels and have substantive lesson plans for many subjects. Don't reinvent the wheel! Contact your state Citizen Corps Coordinator and request youth education projects. FEMA Citizen Corps in Washington has a youth coordinator also. Much is being done currently in youth preparedness!

    2 years ago
  25. I would offer that perhaps it's not just the "preparedness" knowledge but the action we want to habituate. I know local companies provide "bucks" for schools. My nephew collects UPC codes off of everything in the pantry and turns them in for extra credit. Could the same concept be applied helping a family, through their child, build a preparedness kit?

    I do recognize that my concept would apply primarily in a Hurricane vulnerable school system. There are several types of educational websites, videos and materials available. I believe our community knows, recognizes the value and understands the importance of preparedness it is the lack of the “actions” of preparedness that we, as emergency managers, ultimately want to see changed.

    2 years ago
    1. I agree with you, except for such kits being limited to Hurricane vulnerable schools. Readiness kits would be valuable in a variety of situations. Recently, I was in a position in which one of my job functions was to work with families and schools in developing preparedness plans and kits for youth with disabilities/special health needs. While the schools have overarching emergency planning, being able to meet specific needs is glaringly lacking. A personal example: my daughter is very allergic to bees, and even having an Epipen available on field trips was not considered until I brought it up and we worked out the plan. Youth with juvenile diabetes was another area that preparedness needed, and still needs, a significant amount of improvement. In addition, I think that each state has its own factors to consider. Here in Wyoming, we have communities that deal with significant flooding and blizzards each year. In addition, we are a frontier state, so not only do we not have a lot of services that other states have, but we also have vast distances between many of our towns, with mountain ranges providing an additional barrier.

      2 years ago
  26. Hello Everyone,

    I think this concept should be modeled and managed from within the Emergency Management Institute EMI. They are the clearing house for emergency management education. Create a program similar to the Higher Education Program. It can be broken down in the same format. This is working for higher education and is extremely helpful. You can share curriculum, program ideas, syllabus, rubric, handouts and any other helpful items. Another great advantage of using EMI is it would introduce teachers to the availability of independent study classes that could help them teach disasters. Also older high school students could take independent study classes.

    "Keeping training and education in the same house such as EMI is only logical."

    2 years ago
  27. You can check out the EMI higher education at the following link

    http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/edu/

    2 years ago
  28. Within the Boy Scouts of America is a little known professional branch, in which organizations, and businesses, as well as Government entities can sponsor youth to learn their programs.

    The Explorer Program.

    This is similar to an unpaid internship for youth between 14 to 21, co-ed, and it is run by the Charter Organization (business, corporation, Police Department, Fire Department, ROTC, any Government entity) through their policies, procedures, and protocols and in tandem with the guidelines of the Boy Scouts of America.

    With a more hand-on approach by the Chartered Organization, and a more hands-off by the B.S.A.

    http://exploring.learningforlife.org/

    There are 12 different branches available.

    8 of those branches deal specifically with areas that F.E.M.A. has as related topics.

    I am writing this with no endorsement from the Boy Scouts of America, nor any from the Learning For Life program (Explorer's run on LFL program), but as a prior youth under the Police Explorer program.

    Today I am an adult leader with the Boy Scouts of America as a volunteer.

    I believe the Explorer Program can help America to "Be Prepared" in a professional manner, when our citizens need it most, through disaster preparedness.

    2 years ago
  29. I think that it should be integrated with the schools. No one in my area thought much about earthquake drills since it is not likely to occur here. The we got a coluple and everyone woke up. I started our first National Preparedness Month recognition in the county (and to my knowledge this area). We had a small turn out but it was a start. We are planning on trying again this year. We had some teachers attend and they asked some good questions. I would like to see us be abel to work with the local schools to do this but we will have to see.

    2 years ago
  30. Being certified for emergency situations could add to anyone's career and life ambitions and accomplishments for saving and caring for your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors as well as the public.

    2 years ago
  31. This is a great idea. in our county we have developed a targeted Fifth Grade disaster Preparedness program which is a modified version of our adult oriented, countywide disaster preparedness program, Get Ready Marin. The youth version is called GR5, for Get Ready Fifth grade, and puts students through a one-hour in-class lesson covering things like local hazards, communications plans, family emergency plans, emergency supplies, and evacuation plans. After there one-hour lesson they go home, and working with all the household members, go through a series of action items, like checking utilities, identifying evacuation routes, reviewing communications plans, etc. Once the student does this they complete a survey/checklist as part of their homework and turn it back in to their teacher for a little prize. We have been teaching this for three years now in the county and this last year we reached over 70% of our fifth grade population. The program has been so successful that our Bay Area UASI program has provided funding to make it a regional program. So yes, I also believe that to really affect change, we must work through the children.

    2 years ago
  32. The Israelis incorporate disaster preparedness in their cirriculum beginning in second grade. Future plans are to start this preparation as early as kindergarten. Obviously, all of this training would be age sensitive. The more you engage all levels of society in these efforts the more resilient they will be. When a community is well informed before, during and after a disaster, its capacity to respond will be higher.

    2 years ago
  33. Recommend adding an adult CPR qualification to the health curriculum for 15 year old students and up. Every year they could re-qualify one day out of the year establish a Disaster recovery block training day.

    2 years ago
  34. AGREED:Recommend adding an adult CPR qualification to the health curriculum for 15 year old students and up. Every year they could re-qualify one day out of the year establish a Disaster recovery block training day.

    DISAGREE: School curricula are based on teaching standards of science, math, language arts, social studies, fine arts, and so forth, as prescribed by states -- not the Federal Government.

    COMMENT: "No Child Left Behind" Act, invalidates the idea that the states determine curricula based on teaching standards of science, math, language arts, social studies, fine arts, and so forth, as prescribed by the states. The fact is health education is taught along with drug avoidance programs such as 'DARE'. The other reality is the flow-throgh funding from the Federal Government dictates what public schools will do if they want to enjoy the money on student head-count.

    BOTTOM-LINE: SCHOOLS (SPECIAL-DISTRICTS) that receive FEMA FUNDS will be compliant with NIMS or risk loss of future funding. Apparently OREGON got the idea and demonstrated how Risk Watch aligned with the state standards. Masters in Disaster. Validating the idea that the states determine curricula would be suggesting that a public school education in Florida was better than a public school education in Georgia. Accordingly, the notion that one states public schools are better than another must be rejected. Obviously, the notion that students are in high-school to get a well-rounded-education but must go to the ARC for CPR, FIRST-AID, and AED must be rejected. The ARC should not be the sole vendor of CPR, FIRST-AID, and AED. Oregon suggests what positively has been done and what is being done while another suggests passing-the-buck, and what won't be done under his watch. A suggestion for the 'WELL-ROUNDED' type educators that believe disaster prepardness and education has no place in secondary schools would be they need to enroll in Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools (G364), Planning for the Needs of Children in Disasters (G366), Earthquake Safety for Schools (G434.a), and Earthquakes: A Teacher’s Package for K–6 (G436) to get a better perspective of what is needed on campus. The 'WELL-ROUNDED-EDUCATOR' needs to consider this is a forum to suggest what can be done or what can be done better rather than a forum of what needs to be past on and what is not going to get done.

    2 years ago

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