Youthful Ambitions

This is a second blog post from Rick Atterberry and me. We  recently attended: Implementing Youth Emergency Preparedness into Your Organization. Sponsored by Citizen Corps. FEMA has had a Children’s Working Group since 2009.

The United States has had 34 presidentially declared disasters in 2011, noted Andrew Velasquez, FEMA Region V Administrator. And we all know most disasters are not presidentially declared. In any case, the frequency of disasters set the tone for the rest of the conference.

For preparedness messages, we are in for the long game. For people to practice disaster preparedness, we must have cultural change, just as the seat belt usage was a cultural chance. Because disasters occurred more often in this decade. Konstantine Buhler, founder of Always Ready Kids, age 22, ( ) calls his generation the “disaster generation.” It will be that generation and younger who will adopt disaster preparedness. In the conference, it became clear, that we should look for ways to include youth on disaster advocacy groups such as Voluntary or Community Organizations Active in Disasters and Citizen Corps and invite them to have a person at the table.

In the long-term effort, we need to be very organized to take the message to the schools. Develop or clarify the mission, vision, and goals for youth preparedness programs if you want them into the schools.

Be prepared to approach the schools from a top, middle and bottom approach, and involve parent teacher organizations. Think about assemblies with energetic programs with characters, if possible. Be very organized and flexible. If you can win one principle, the word spreads.

Here are some people and resources of note from this conference:

Catalogue of Youth Disaster Preparedness Resources is located with other resources at .

Sgt. Kevin Sweeney, Michigan Citizen Corps does great work implementing programs. He makes a great conference workshop speaker if you can catch him.  Jackie Miller with Ready Houston has great youth oriented programs, and Tod Pritchard, Wisconsin Emergency Management program has a ready to use STEP (Student Tools for Emergency Planning) program. He’s already thinking about STEP 2.

In the end, any kind of preparedness training may give them the confidence to handle any emergency better. It’s a matter of culture.

Responding to Disasters Is Stressful

Going on location to disasters can be a new and harrowing experience for some Extension personnel. Not only are there physical hazards, but mental and social hazards may be part of the turf too.

You may ask yourself if you are doing the right thing. You could begin to doubt if you are putting in enough time relative to the overwhelming needs. You might attend a town hall meeting in which the situation turns ugly. Your family may miss you and you may miss them. And least of all, but not unimportant, you may wonder if you are ever going to get the yard mowed.

Because responding to disaster is new to some in Extension and not new to others, I bet we all have some tips to share. One is having someone close to talk about what you are going through. Another is having a great team of educators and specialists who help with the response. And, my final tip for this blog is to be on the same page with your boss and administrators. At a risk of going on a tangent in this blog, some will argue that Extension doesn’t have a place in direct response. I have found that education is well received in the response phase of a disaster, especially if you’ve made the upfront efforts and contacts.

Recently, FEMA provided a very clear list of hazards associated with flood and cleanups, which range from fatigue to snakes. It is available on the EDEN Floods and Flooding page at

What other tips might be useful? Please share so we can all respond smarter.

Steve Cain – Purdue University Extension

National VOAD and EDEN Partnership Signed

Guest Post by Steve Cain

EDEN reps sign NVOAD/EDEN partnership agreement
Steve Cain adds his signature

The National VOAD and EDEN took an historic step on March 15, 2011 and signed a partnership agreement. The agreement was signed by Bob Leipold, Executive Director of National VOAD and EDEN representatives Virginia Morgan, Rick Atterberry and Steve Cain at the EDEN Executive Committee’s 2011 retreat.

During his brief presentation following the signing, Bob Leipold highlighted the similarities between the two organizations. The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster’s goal is to reduce the impact of disaster through communication, cooperation, coordination, and collaboration. The Extension Disaster Education Network’s mission is to reduce the impact of disaster through education.

EDEN Chair Virginia Morgan pointed out that the partnership recognizes the values and the system that the Extension Service brings to helping in all functions of disasters. For National VOAD, the partnership brings a valuable ally in improving knowledge so that people in the U.S. better understand disasters.

Extension, with outreach in all U.S. states and territories, and involvement in disaster issues, matches up well with the VOAD movement. Recent disasters demonstrate the need for more individual and community disaster resilience. This need influences the VOAD growth and movement at the national, state and community level. The same need drives Extension to answer the call at the same levels to help individuals and communities prepare, respond, recover and mitigate for disasters. The EDEN and National VOAD partnership makes sense. The ideas for growth in the partnership are many, and more opinions are welcomed here.