How Prepared Are Your Children for a Disaster?
That’s the question that occupies Mariah Hensel, a Ready Corp Member with the City of Longmont’s Office of Emergency Management. She is working on preparedness trainings and presentations for high school students in the St. Vrain Valley School District as part of the implementation of Envision Longmont.
So far she has completed a Winter Weather preparedness workshop which she has shared with City of Longmont staff. Her hope is to expand this to be a standard part of the Driver’s Ed classes at high schools. As kids study to get their driver’s licenses, they would also learn how to stay safe if stranded by a storm and what items to keep in the car to help in an emergency situation. This approach helps to make “preparedness” less of an abstract concept and helps tie it to everyday activities so that kids can incorporate it into their lives on a day-to-day basis.
One key point with these curricula, is that Hensel is preparing materials in both English and Spanish. There is still a large gap in emergency preparedness and response materials available in Spanish. This is especially worrisome in Longmont, where nearly 25% of the population identifies as Latino, and there are many mono-lingual Spanish speakers. Mariah’s work is helping to bridge this gap and complement other projects such as the Resiliency for All project. Cumulatively, these efforts are increasing basic access to disaster response and recovery resources.
Expanding the Program: Longmont and Beyond
In addition to winter emergency preparedness, Mariah is working on a tornado and flood readiness class to be held at the Longmont Rec Center. This will provide tips and resource updates to residents all over the city on a seasonal basis. To cover the summer months, Hensel is hoping to pilot a youth camp that teaches both disaster preparedness and wilderness survival skills in an outdoor setting. As she sees it, “When I was a kid, I would have loved a disaster preparedness camp; but not everyone is interested in that, so we want to make it appeal to a broad audience but still teach skills that are applicable to preparedness.”
If the pilot is successful, this program would provide a model that could be shared with other communities across the county and expand current preparedness efforts in a new way.
All of this work is under the Envision Longmont plan, which was recently adopted by the city after a lengthy community input process. You can read more about the specifics here, but Mariah’s ultimate goal as part of this plan is to create a solid blueprint for disaster preparedness education in Longmont that will foster knowledgeable and informed citizens now and into the future. Her focus on youth helps to fill a big preparedness gap and greatly strengthens the efforts of Be Ready Longmont. We can’t wait to see how the program expands and spreads preparedness knowledge and skills to youth across the county.
See below for some potential partnerships that we thought might fit this program. Do you have others you would suggest? Email Tiernan with thoughts and ideas.