Third and fourth-grade students of Summit Schools in Cedar Rapids, IA, took action to boost awareness in their community about a nearby power plant’s emergency plan. The Duane Arnold Energy Center (DAEC)—the state’s only nuclear power plant—is located less than 20 miles away in Palo, IA. The private elementary school emphasizes project-based learning, so when the students got interested in the plant, their teacher saw potential to improve the community’s resilience.
After hearing about their project, a group of DAEC employees visited the students to teach them about nuclear power and about how DAEC works hard to protect their community. The students wanted to learn more about DAEC’s emergency plan, so they reached out to Director Mike Goldberg and Plans and Exercise Specialist Kevin Esmail, both from Linn County Emergency Management Agency (EMA). They helped the students understand the plan, and they also brainstormed ways the students could partner with them to get residents familiar with the plan.
“It warms my heart to see students take such an active role in helping their neighbors prepare for emergencies,” said DAEC’s Emergency Preparedness Manager Mark Fritz.
When the students surveyed residents in Cedar Rapids about their knowledge of DAEC’s emergency plan, they found that an alarming 70 percent of people didn’t know what to do or where to go in the event of an emergency evacuation.
Students Help Teach Neighbors about Local Risks
That spurred the students into action. They held a bake sale and applied for a grant to help pay for their materials. They used these funds to design and produce t-shirts, fliers, and postcards encouraging people to know their evacuation route. Working with local businesses like Tomaso’s Pizza, students spread fliers around town. To get the word out to as many people as possible, local networks broadcast a student-filmed public service announcement to the entire community.
On March 19, 2016, the Linn County EMA, DAEC, and the chief of the Technological Hazards Branch, National Preparedness Division Region VII of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Chuck Gregg, presented the students with a certificate of recognition for their successful preparedness project.
“We plan to share the students’ project with emergency management agencies across the Nation,” explained Gregg. “It is our hope that other students will follow their example and take action to prepare their neighbors.”