Educating Children About Emergency Preparedness

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Advertising Council have launched Ready Kids, a family-friendly tool to help parents and teachers educate children about emergencies and how they can help their families prepare.

The Ready Kids program launched at Andrew Jackson Language Academy in Chicago with a roundtable discussion led by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and an interactive presentation for families by local first responders. Ready Kids is the newest addition to the successful Ready campaign, a national public service advertising campaign designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.

"As we have encouraged families to prepare for emergencies, parents and teachers have often asked if there is information appropriate to share with children, so we are pleased to share Ready Kids in response to these requests," said Chertoff. "We hope the Ready Kids Web site and in-school materials will help facilitate discussions about this important subject and encourage all families to get an emergency supply kit, make a family emergency plan and be informed about the different emergencies that can happen."

The Ready Kids Web site at features fun games and puzzles as well as age-appropriate, step-by-step instructions on what families can do to better prepare for emergencies and the role kids can play in that effort. In addition to the interactive games for children, the Web site also has resources for parents and teachers on emergency preparedness and response.

DHS and the Ad Council have also worked with Scholastic Inc. to develop Ready Kids in-school activity sheets for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students nationwide. These materials offer lessons that meet national standards for language arts, social studies and geography, while providing teachers and parents with a vehicle to explain important emergency preparedness information to children. The in-school materials were distributed to 135,000 middle-school teachers across the country.

These new materials feature the Ready Kids mascot character, a strong and confident mountain lion named Rex, who encourages children to help their families prepare. 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 Advertising Council has a successful, 64-year history of using mascots such as Smokey Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog to communicate critical safety messages to children and families," said Ad Council President Peggy Conlon. "Rex serves as a positive role model for children and he will be a valuable tool in educating them about the importance of emergency preparedness in their homes, schools and communities."

DHS consulted with a number of organizations experienced in education and children's health to develop Ready Kids, including American Psychological Association, American Red Cross, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of School Psychologists, National PTA, the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Their expertise helped present the emergency preparedness information included in the Ready Kids program in a way that is understandable and appropriate for children.

"It's important to address this topic and explain to children that families can prepare for emergencies before they take place and that they can help, too," said Ron Palomares, Ready Kids advisor from the American Psychological Association. "By doing so, we can help reduce anxiety about these types of topics in the news and nurture a more prepared society for generations to come."

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