A member of the Community Emergency Response Team assists an injured woman
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Leadership Spotlight: Helping Kids and Their Families Make Preparedness a Priority

July 2022

Samantha Brann

“People under 18 make up almost 25 percent of our population but are 100 percent of our future,” said Samantha Brann in highlighting the importance of teaching youth about emergency preparedness. As Branch Chief of the National Preparedness Program, Individual & Community Preparedness Division (ICPD), Brann oversees youth and other programs to help ensure people are ready for emergencies.

“When youth prepare and practice for an emergency, it improves their ability to take immediate and informed action during a disaster. Participation in group discussions, drills, exercises, and training helps establish behavior patterns to support quick and effective action during an emergency. This, in turn, empowers them to recover more quickly,” said Brann, who before joining FEMA last year was the community engagement manager with Arlington, Virginia’s Office of Emergency Management.

She notes that almost 14 percent of children and teens have experienced a disaster during their lifetime. Four percent have experienced a disaster within the past year. Of those who experienced a disaster, a quarter reported experiencing more than one.

Youth can also help their families prepare for disasters.

“Children are a trusted source of information and act as good messengers, especially in households where English is not the primary language. When schoolchildren bring home preparedness materials, households are more likely to believe they know what to do in case of several types of disasters,” Brann said.

FEMA offers a wealth of preparedness materials and programs both for and about youth. One of Brann’s favorites for children is the Prepare with Pedro activity book, for children in kindergarten through second grade, in which Pedro the Penguin learns how to prepare for hazards. She also recommends the Ready 2 Help card game that teaches lifesaving skills to children ages 8 to 12, as well as the Student Tools for Emergency Planning (STEP) curriculum for students in fourth and fifth grades.

These materials are available free both online and through FEMA’s warehouse. (Please note that due to supply chain and inventory issues, orders may be significantly delayed).

FEMA also has two courses for adults to help youth be ready for emergencies. In 2021, ICPD released the Integrating the Needs of Children workshop to help communities plan for the specific needs of young people.

One of ICPD’s most popular programs among child care providers is Organizations Preparing for Emergency Needs (OPEN). To learn more, see the article “Courses Help Organizations that Work with Children” in this issue of the newsletter.

ICPD’s Youth Preparedness Council (YPC) also advances preparedness among young people. The YPC celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2022 and is expanding to 25 members beginning this summer. Members have started Teen Community Emergency Response Teams (Teen CERT) programs, led mass casualty exercises, created preparedness videos for their community, and have spoken at regional and state emergency management conferences.

“This year’s class is incredibly impressive,” said Brann. “They are already active in their own community — from serving with their local Sea Cadets, Teen CERT, Civil Air Patrol, Medical Reserve Corps, or fire department, to supporting COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.”

Brann and ICPD are excited for the many youth initiatives in the year ahead, and for the future preparedness leadership of this important audience.

This article first appeared in the quarterly Individual and Community Preparedness Newsletter.  Subscribe here.

Disclaimer: The reader recognizes that the federal government provides links and informational data on various disaster preparedness resources and events and does not endorse any non-federal events, entities, organizations, services, or products. Please let us know about other events and services for individual and community preparedness that could be included in future newsletters by contacting  FEMA-prepare@fema.dhs.gov .