To change the preparedness meme we need to effectively transfer a sense of risk ownership to the citizenry. The most effective and comprehensive way to do this is via youth education in the schools. Topics such as knowledge of hazards, preparedness steps, protective actions, risk ownership, citizen accountability and community collaboration need to be taught across the curriculum in grades K-12. This requires a partnership between FEMA, the Dept. of Education and key textbook manufacturers - this requires a fundamental shift in current underlying messages about these topics. If children are always taught that they are responsible for owning their own risk and then provided the information and tools to deal with those risks they will create a different citizenry for FEMA to deal with in the future. This is equal opportunity preparedness - every kid in every school receives the same message, the same tools throughout their years of formal schooling. The end result - communities filled with folks who understand that they have a key role in their own safety and risk management. This understanding will fundamentally change the way EMs do business in that the citizenry (which ultimately is the whole of society - be it as a general citizen, business, nonprofit or governmental rep) will operate with a shared understanding and expectations. This is a long-term strategy that requires long-term vision, but seeing as we will always have to address hazards and risk and will never have adequate resources we need to invest in changing the preparedness meme.
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