At the end of the 20th century, an estimated 66.5 million children each year were affected by a natural disaster, and this number will most likely increase, owing to shifts within society (i.e., conflicts, hunger) and large climate changes. Around the world and in the U.S., disasters disproportionately affect poor populations—
Ensuring youth and their families know what to do in an emergency and that the unique needs and assets of youth are included in disaster preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery efforts is critical. While many individuals report that they are aware of disasters and their potential effects, fewer report that they have undertaken steps to plan for or prepare for disasters. Prevention and preparedness refer to the planning and actions that occur prior to a disaster. This may include preparing for public health threats, developing an emergency response plan, creating an emergency preparedness kit, or taking steps to address things that may cause a disaster. Response and recovery refer to actions that occur during and after disasters or emergencies. Responses to emergencies may include sheltering in place or evacuating, and recovery may include repairing damaged infrastructure, reuniting families, replacing supplies, addressing emotional responses and revising response plans. Youth-serving agencies can play an important role educating youth about disasters and teaching them coping mechanisms. Involving them in prevention, preparedness, recovery, and response efforts can help to ensure that youth, families, and communities are prepared and able to respond when faced with disasters.
Every September is National Preparedness Month and FEMA is working hard to encourage youth organizations, K-12 schools, colleges and universities throughout the Nation to elevate the importance of preparedness and to encourage individuals, families and organizations to work together and take action to prepare for emergencies. There are many incredible organizations in the country assisting with events and training throughout National Preparedness Month and America’s PrepareAthon!
In 2012, the FEMA Youth Preparedness Council (YPC) was formed to bring together extraordinary youth leaders from across the country interested in advocating on behalf of youth preparedness and making a difference in their communities. Council members complete a self-selected legacy project during his or her term on the Council and participate in a YPC Summit in Washington D.C., where they share their ideas, opinions and questions about youth disaster preparedness with the leadership of national organizations working on this critical priority. For more information, visit http://www.ready.gov/