Getting Kids to Take the Lead on Emergency Preparedness

hero-logo-homeYou know you should talk to your kids about what to do in a disaster, but other than stop, drop, and roll or telling them where to shelter during an earthquake, it really doesn’t happen. FEMA knows that. They know parents don’t want to freak out their kids or that they may simply forget, as planning for the what ifs certainly take a back seat to homework, practices, and the demands of everyday life. Now, instead of burdening you with starting an awkward conversation, FEMA is going through your kids.

This month the Federal Emergency Management Agency is launching a website aimed at kids 7-12 (though while the target age, the materials are appropriate kids 6-18) that not only gives them action items for determining if a situation is an emergency, then how to respond, but it gives them prompts for starting a preparedness discussion at home. Kids are notorious for starting uncomfortable conversations, and FEMA is using that to their advantage.

Through graphic novel-style storytelling and games, FEMA shows kids how to respond in a variety of situations, although not terrorism, school shootings, or chemical warfare level events because those could generate fear instead of a feeling of empowerment. Instead the focus is on fires, extreme heat, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and other more common natural occurrences. Also, it helps kids determine what items are important to have during an emergency, for instance that a working flashlight may be more important than a full collection of stuffed animals.

The Be a Hero website captures no personal data – the downside being that if your child is playing a game and wants to resume later, the computer will not remember and the game will need to be restarted – and kids only play against themselves, meaning there isn’t interaction with other people/players, making the site kid-safe. The site was launched this month, and while FEMA hopes word of mouth spreads through schools, the site was used as a case study during the Digital Kids Edu Summit in San Francisco this week.

While the website is easy to navigate for a government site, this roll out isn’t anything like the private sector. There is no corresponding Facebook page, and there isn’t a mobile app, which is really a shame not only because that’s where many kids interact with websites, but it could be a great reassurance or reference point during times on disaster prep, like when a hurricane is coming. The parent disaster prep site is mobile, but not the kid site. A mobile app will likely come in the future, but that plan feels a few steps behind.

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