Children play an important role in disaster preparedness and have unique potential to help their communities be safer, stronger, and more resilient before, during, and after a disaster. As a nation, it is our responsibility to help youth realize this potential. Youth preparedness programs across the country provide youth with the knowledge and skills they need to protect their own well-being, as well as that of their families and communities, when emergencies threaten or strike.
Anyone can start a youth preparedness program. In many cases, such programs are started within the context of a larger organization such as a school, faith-based organization, or community group, though sometimes programs are created as independent initiatives.
Establishing a youth preparedness program is an involved effort, but there are many resources available to help new and potential program leaders through the process. Connecting with your State Citizen Corps Program Manager is an ideal first step, as they can help connect you with various local partners. Additionally, the seven steps listed below offer a brief overview of the work involved in implementing a successful youth preparedness program. FEMA’s guide, Youth Preparedness: Implementing A Community Based Program (Implementation Guide) will walk you through the steps in more detail. That document can be used in conjunction with the Youth Preparedness Implementation Checklist [hyperlink to pdf which is currently in development], which provides a series of questions designed to help you ensure the thorough completion of your implementation process.
Step 1: Getting Started
To ensure a successful youth preparedness program, a program leader must begin by assessing the needs of the community, identifying the goals of the program, and securing the necessary financing and resources to facilitate a smooth launch. The first step involves deciding what to include in the program; for example, will it include information and training on a particular type of disaster, or general information about family preparedness and/or emergency response? Once you have identified your community’s needs, you will be able to establish a focus for your youth program.
Step 2: Engaging Partners
Youth preparedness requires the collaboration of a variety of organizations and individuals who believe in your mission and vision. The second step in implementing a youth preparedness program is to identify and secure partners, and to define the roles and responsibilities for each partner. Refer to the section, Partners in Preparedness [hyperlink to this page], for a look at potential partners to consider. You may also refer to the “Sample Pitch” (page 7) table of the Youth Preparedness Funding Guide [hyperlink to pdf] for ideas on how to engage partners. While this pitch is specific to securing funding partners, it may be tailored to meet the needs of your particular engagement endeavor.
Step 3: Identifying Your Curriculum
There are a variety of youth preparedness programs that exist, each one designed to meet the needs of different communities and the different age groups of youth participants. The third step involves determining who your audience is which topics to focus on, and then identifying a curriculum that meets the demands of this audience(s) and focus area(s). FEMA’s Catalogue of Youth Disaster Preparedness Education Resources, available via the Tools & Resources page, lists a number of curricula for you to choose from.
Step 4: Implementing Your Program
Once your curriculum is in place and your instructors and other staff have been trained, it’s time to put your program into action. The fourth step includes determining scheduling, locations, staffing, and other logistics as you announce the launch of your new program. FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Implementation Workbook, available via the Tools & Resources page, includes various activities to help you think through the effectiveness of your implementation process.
Step 5: Promoting Your Program
Once your program is implemented, raising program awareness within your community is an important next step. This involves mapping out your promotional plan, securing the appropriate budget and staffing for each promotional effort, and, finally, executing these initiatives.
Step 6: Evaluating Your Program
Evaluating your program helps to drive program improvements and, ultimately, leads to greater success. The sixth step involves creating your evaluation plan and managing logistical concerns as you conduct your evaluation.
Step 7: Sustaining Your Program
To ensure the long-term success of your program, program leaders should create a formal sustainability plan that lays out clear goals and objectives. The seventh and last step involves developing this plan. The plan may include steps for working with community partners to generate greater program exposure, establishing a working group, exploring various funding sources, and updating your curriculum.