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Innovative Prep Rally Program Teaches Children And Families The ABC'S Of Disaster Safety

January 2016


Save the ChildrenSave the Children® trains communities to promote preparedness among America’s youth 

According to Save the Children’s 2015 Disaster Report Card, there were 5,000 reported cases of missing children following Hurricane Katrina, and it took 7 months to reunite the last child with her parents. Less than half of American families have an emergency plan, leaving children vulnerable to harm in disasters. To help fill these gaps and mobilize communities, Save the Children empowers children and equips families to prepare for disasters.

Save the Children, a nonprofit organization that helps children in the United States and around the world have a healthy start, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm, has joined the America’s PrepareAthon!SM movement in delivering an innovative Prep Rally program.

Children race toward readiness during the Disaster Supplies Relay Race.Children race toward readiness during the Disaster Supplies Relay Race.

Leading Children on a Preparedness Adventure

Designed to teach children the basics of preparedness through engaging games and activities, Save the Children’s Prep Rally program has four “prep steps” in its framework: (1) Recognizing the risks in your area, including the disasters that might strike; (2) Planning ahead to create a family communication, evacuation and shelter in place plan; (3) Gathering supplies, and making sure you have the right contents in your disaster supply kit; and (4) Knowing what to do during a disaster.  The program is brought to life through activities like the “Un-telephone” and dance party games. Save the Children staff frequently host Prep Rallies for special events throughout the year, and when they do, they bring their animal ambassador Lassie, the iconic TV dog, to get help lead cheers, participate in the Disaster Supplies Relay Race, and get children excited about preparedness.

“During a disaster,” said Sarah Thompson, associate director of community preparedness of Save the Children’s U.S. Programs, “we encourage kids to keep calm, follow the plan, and know that there are people who are working to keep them safe, including teachers and first responders.”

Save the Children works with community organizations to adapt the program to specific needs in the area. For example, some communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy delivered the prep rally as a community celebration, instead of holding it in a classroom. The organizers invited families and local vendors to participate by providing disaster backpacks and other supplies, and they set up stations where attendees could learn the different prep steps.

“When it comes down to it, protecting kids is a community responsibility,” said Thompson. “Each day in the U.S., 69 million children are in school or child care, separated from their families should a disaster strike. That means it takes schools, programs, local governments and emergency management working together to ensure proper plans are in place to keep children safe wherever they are.”

Community Leaders Become Champions for Child Safety

Save the Children and Lassie, their animal ambassador, lead Prep Rallies around the country to help children recover from past disasters and empower families to prepare for future emergencies.Save the Children and Lassie, their animal ambassador, lead Prep Rallies around the country to help children recover from past disasters and empower families to prepare for future emergencies.

In addition to empowering youth to be prepared, Save the Children helps community leaders learn how best to protect kids during emergencies. For example, the organization’s staff trained 60 adult leaders in Oklahoma to host a Prep Rally as part of America’s PrepareAthon! Most adults who participate in such trainings already play a role in children’s programming, such as parks and recreation departments, Boys and Girls Clubs, and after-school programs. “We designed the Prep Rally program with the idea that you don’t have to be an emergency manager or a Save the Children staff member to run it,” said Thompson. “You just need to care about kids and want to keep them safe.”

The goal of these trainings, which are offered in-person as well as online through webinars, is to build champions within the community who can run the program. Trainees participated in the cheers and games they would conduct with children. For example, during the “un-telephone” game, participants pass a message down the line, and then a moderator interferes with the passage of the message—using sirens or sounds of thunder, or by cutting the “power” line before the message gets to the last person. This starts a conversation about emergency communication and the importance of having a plan.

Kids work on their home emergency plan during a Save the Children Prep Rally.Kids work on their home emergency plan during a Save the Children Prep Rally.

“We tell kids to have three emergency contacts: their parents, a local family member or friend, and an out-of-town contact,” said Thompson. “During the training, we ask the adults to make a list of emergency contacts without using their cell phones, and it is very eye-opening because they struggle, as do children who have not grown up memorizing phone numbers. But simple things, like learning emergency contacts can make a big difference in a disaster and quick family reunification is needed. The Prep Rally helps teach children those vital skills.”

If your school, business, or organization would like to host a Prep Rally in your community, visit www.savethechildren.org/preprally and download the Prep Rally Kit, which includes guides for engaging children and families both during and after the prep rally. You can then register your event with Save the Children and America’s PrepareAthon!