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Improving Youth Preparedness Programs through Research

September 2020

In mid-year 2020, FEMA performed research on youth preparedness education and training. The goal was to gain insight on how to strengthen and best use methods that prepare youth for disasters.

FEMA found that there is a need to use inclusive, adaptable, and flexible materials when teaching youth about preparedness. These materials must ensure that the needs of youth with and without access and functional needs (e.g. youth with and without disabilities, different types of learning abilities, and low vision) are met equally. The data also revealed that the materials should be enticing and interactive.

Research Methods

FEMA collected data through focus groups and cognitive interviews. The focus groups were facilitator-led discussions that were held with a select group of educators who taught youth preparedness. These focus groups provided insight to the interpretations and impressions about youth-preparedness education. The cognitive interviews were guided one-on-one discussions. They focused on how participants interpreted, understood meanings of, and thought about graphics and materials designed to educate youth about preparedness.


Based on the research, FEMA has the following recommendations to effectively create youth preparedness programs:

Close the Gap

Youth-focused disaster preparedness materials should close the gap between grade school, middle school, high school, and university programs by including emergency management training for young people, who are our future emergency management professionals.

What was said: “…we need to train our future generation for emergency management. The day of the volunteer is almost over. What you're going to see moving forward is most [responders being] paid emergency management professionals.”


There is a need to develop materials in multiple languages other than English.

What was said: “We have a lot of bilingual parents and, when you just send a paper home, the child may be able to interpret. But if there was something where the bilingual parents could see the products, that might help them get more motivated when the kids come home and say, ‘Hey, look what I did at school today.’”

Use Technology

Materials that take advantage of the opportunities afforded by technology should be developed. Curriculums should address remote-learning settings for online teaching and include a version for youth who rely on assistive technologies (e.g. for those who are Deaf or have low vision)

What was said: “Would it be possible to get the documents in an editable Word format? This way we can modify and edit the materials based off of the audience we are teaching.”

Share Your Resources

There is a need to increase awareness and access to youth preparedness materials, as the materials that are currently available are “underutilized” or hard to find.

What was said: “It's such a great ready-made resource and [the] materials are available for free, at least for smaller groups. It just needs better promotion to get the word out there.”


The results from this research show that there is a need to expand youth preparedness outside of the classroom. Efforts should be made to market and advertise existing materials to groups and agencies that work with youth. This will increase awareness and use of products designed to promote youth preparedness. Preparedness education should not have an end date. Teaching youth about preparedness today will create the foundation for youth to become the adults who build resilient communities tomorrow.