Category: Children and Disasters


Posted on April 8th, 2020

Extension educators have proudly been a pillar in their communities, whether that’s from attending city meetings to making guest appearances in classrooms. But in a time when communities are not gathering and Extension’s usual avenues for connecting are put on hold, how do you remain a local face in your community? Beth Chatterton, a 4-H program coordinator in McDonough County, Illinois has found one solution.

When the Coronavirus restrictions started happening, Beth knew she wanted to help: “I was trying to figure out what I could do to still be connected to my 4-H family. One of the things I was thinking about is during this time I’m in schools, I’m in public libraries doing storytime with my kiddos and it’s something I’ve always enjoyed. I’m an 80s-90s kid; I had Reading Rainbow and Mister Rogers and thinking back, storytime was always just very comforting for me and something I really enjoyed. So I thought maybe we’ll just go on that.”

Beth’s top priority is keeping her connection to the community and supporting families navigating this difficult time. This goal, combined with her knowledge and experience led her to her solution: “I could do Facebook lives and read stories.”

Facebook live stories allow Beth to contribute from the safety of her home. She started doing Facebook live storytimes in mid-March. Though her process has adapted and changed, Beth is now doing storytime Monday-Friday at 12:15 CT. At the end of each story, Beth connects it back to 4-H with an activity because “one of the nice things about 4-H is there’s like a hundred projects. So if you’ve got a hobby, we’ve got a 4-H project to go along with it.”

Since starting storytime, Beth has been blown away by the response she has received. She has 15 families that tune in regularly and her videos get about 150 views on average. Families reach out to her with suggestions and requests, from both parents and kids.

“It’s something I think people can connect with. It’s just kind of an easy thing to just grab a story and try and figure out an activity to go along with it. As we do social distancing, it’s very easy to feel like you’re stuck and in a bubble and not really connecting with people. I’m hoping that them [families] seeing my face and having questions asked to them, they feel like there’s that connection still, that we’re still here.”

Beth is just one example of how Extension educators across the nation are adapting during this time. Many other educators are doing similar programs, but for those who are still exploring new options, Beth has some advice:

“Don’t get in the way of yourself. Sometimes when I talk to people about doing a Facebook live, it can be very intimidating because anything can happen and you can make a mistake and it’s there because it’s live. But I think that that’s one of the reassuring things—one of the genuine things. That when I hop on, I do make mistakes. I stumble over words when I read a book, one book I missed a whole page. But we’re all human and we all make mistakes and it’s just one of those genuine things. So just give it a go.”

See Beth’s Videos

If you or another Extension educator have adapted programming for COVID-19, responded to COVID-19, or just want to brag about your amazing innovations, be sure to fill out the form below to let the rest of the nation know just how awesome you are. Be sure to check out the COVID-19 page to see what other Extension systems are doing and find helpful resources from our partners.

Submit a response 
more COVID-19 resources


traumaPost by Lynette Black, 4-H Youth Development Faculty, Oregon State University

When it comes to the effects of disasters, children are a vulnerable population. Understanding the unique needs of children and including these needs in disaster planning will help them better cope with life following the disaster. Let’s take a look at this unique population.

They Rely on Adults

Children are physically and emotionally dependent on the caring adults in their lives. During disasters they will turn to the adult to keep them safe. If the adults are unprepared, the children are left vulnerable both physically and emotionally. This means child care providers, educators, afterschool providers, coaches and other caring adults need to be prepared with disaster plans that include knowledge of how to respond to disasters, comprehensive evacuation plans, and safe and efficient family reunification plans.

They are Not Small Adults

Children are more susceptible to the hazards caused by disasters due to their underdeveloped bodies and brains. Their skin is thinner, they take more breaths per minute, they are closer to the ground, the require more fluids per pound, and they need to eat more often; leaving the child more vulnerable to physical harm from the disaster. In addition, their brains are not fully developed leading to limited understanding of what they experienced and possible prolonged mental health issues. Since children take their cures from their caring adult, the adult’s reactions and responses can either add to or minimize the child’s stress level. Preparations for disasters need to include not only survival kits including first aid supplies for the physical body, but also teaching children (and their adults) stress reducing coping skills for positive mental health.

Their Routine Equals Comfort

Children need routine to help them make sense of their world. Keeping the child’s schedule as consistent as possible following a disaster is crucial to their sense of well-being. The reopening of school, afterschool and recreational programming as soon as possible adds stability the child’s life. Helping families return to a routine known to the child (snack time, bed time, story time) is of utmost importance and helps the child find a new norm post-disaster.

They are At Risk

At particular risk for prolonged mental health and substance abuse issues is the adolescent population. Their brains are in a developmental stage where, in simple terms, the executive function is underdeveloped leaving the emotional part of the brain in charge. This causes this age group to “act without thinking” and feel emotions more intensely than other ages. Disasters increase the typical teen emotions and behaviors leading to greater risk taking, impulsivity and recklessness. They also suffer from increased anxiety and depression and can develop cognitive/concentration difficulties. The caring adults in an adolescent’s life can help recovery by being available to them; listen without judgment, stay calm, serve as a good role model, encourage involvement in community recovery work and resumption of regular social and recreational activities. Understand that with adolescents the effects of the disaster may last longer and may even reappear later in life.

Disasters and traumatic events touch all of us, but can have a particularly traumatic effect on children. The good news is most children will recover, especially if the caring adults in their lives take the steps before, during and after the event to provide basic protective factors and to restore or preserve normalcy in their lives.

See Lynette’s webinar on this topic. If you are a childcare provider, you may also be interested in this online course on disaster preparedness for childcare providers.

View Impacts of Disaster on Youth Webcast


From time to time on Weather Wednesday we will step away from purely meteorological topics to address preparedness. This week we’ll discuss one of the most basic preparedness items, a personal or family Go Kit.

A Go Kit should be assembled and customized according to individual needs following some general guidelines from FEMA. Be sure to look under the tabs for additional suggested items.

AP_fairdale_tornado_14_sk_150410_16x9_1600Let’s look at some of the items which should be included:

Water, one gallon per person per day for three days for drinking and sanitation. For long term storage the crystal clear containers hold up better, but water and food stocks should be rotated out regularly.

Food, a three day supply of non-perishable food. If using canned food, be sure to include a can opener. Specialty meals designed for use by campers are also a good option. Check preparation instructions to be sure you have all of the necessary equipment.

Battery powered, hand cranked and/or solar powered radio capable of receiving NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio and standard broadcast. Carry extra batteries.

Flashlight and extra batteries. Batteries will generally last considerably longer in LED flashlights.

Washington, DC, July 22, 2008 -- A Red Cross "ready to go" preparedness kit showing the bag and it's contents. Red Cross photograph

Red Cross via FEMA

First aid kit. A good basic kit will suffice unless special needs are involved.

Whistle to signal for help. A small air horn is also a good addition, but you can’t beat a whistle for convenience. It takes less volume of air to blow a whistle than to yell which can be important if one is trapped by debris. A whistle or horn also has a better chance of being heard over heavy equipment.

Dust mask.

Plastic sheet and tape if asked to shelter in place.

Local maps. Remember, familiar landmarks may be destroyed in some disasters.

Cell phone with chargers, inverters, solar power, charging packs, etc. Note, avoid using accessories such as the built in flashlight which tend to run down the battery rapidly.

Prescription medications and glasses. Setting aside medication can be problematic so work with your physician and pharmacist to see what can be done.

Cash and change. If the power is out or communications lines down, ATMs will be out of service.

Copies of insurance papers, account numbers, etc. Do keep these in a special place in the kit so you can keep track of them.

Infant formula, diapers, pet food, etc if applicable. Include a leash for your pet and count their water needs as well.

Change of clothes. Err on the side of warmth and waterproof items.

A couple of items recent experience has shown to be very valuable. Sturdy shoes or boots. Sandals and flip flops are not at all useful when walking through debris. If you have identified a shelter area in your home, you might want to keep the spare shoes/boots there.

Bicycle helmets or hard hats may also be useful if easily accessible to your shelter area.

Remember a Go kit should be able to do just that, pick up and go, should the need arise. It is important to temperate the desire to plan for all contingencies with the practical need to perhaps carry the kit for some distance. Kits are also available from retailers, but make sure to customize to your needs.


Tips about Returning to Campus Safety

Written by Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant.

Safety is an integral part of the world we live in, and that is no different for students on a college campus. These tips should help parents and college students feel safer and more secure about starting college for the first time or returning to their campus home.

1. Know the look and location of campus emergency telephones.                         

Almost all college campuses have emergency telephones located throughout the campus. You should know the general location and look of these phones before anything happens. In the event that someone is following you, press all the emergency phone buttons you pass along the way so that the campus police can track you and find you quickly.

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2. Locate safe zones.                                                                

Locate where to go during a natural disaster in the buildings you will be spending the majority of your time, such as: where your classes are and the student center or cafeteria. Most campuses have posters or decals on the walls of places that are safe during a tornado or other natural disaster. Knowing this before a warning or watch is issued will help you calmly get to the safe location.

3. Pack an emergency kit.

This kit can be a small one that you can carry in your backpack: It actually is better if it is small, because that makes it easier to carry. Make sure you comply with your campus rules when preparing this kit, such as some campuses do not allow knives. Some good items to include in your kit are: a phone charger, a whistle to help emergency officials locate you, granola bars, bottle of water, a miniature flashlight, a campus and local map, a paper list of emergency numbers: relatives, roommates, Resident Assistant, and apartment managers.

4. Utilize the age old “Buddy System”

You may think you are too old or too cool for the buddy system, but the truth is it really could help keep you safe; plus it is fun to hang out with friends. If there are two or more downloadpeople together walking around campus, they are more likely to stay safe; because they are more alert to each other and the surroundings, and the likelihood of an aggressor confronting two people is lower than one person. Use this rule especially when walking around campus late at night or attending parties. If your school offers a free ride service, use that anytime you need to travel around campus at night.

5. Know how to react during an emergency.

Auburn University Department of Public Safety released a video demonstrating what to do if there is an active shooter on campus, it is beneficial for every college student to watch. The acronym used in the video is ALICE: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. The letters do not have to be used in this order, the situation determines what should be done. Alert refers to how you learn about the danger. Lockdown refers to locking and barricading the door between you and the aggressor. Inform refers to telling the authorities where you are and where the aggressor is. Counter should be used if the aggressor makes it into your safe area. Do not just hide. Distract and disrupt the aggressor by throwing whatever is at your disposal: book bags, books, desks, or whatever is within reach. The police suggest that Evacuate is the best option; remove yourself and anyone else from harms way if at all possible.


Prepared by Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant. 

Opening page graphic for Disaster Masters online gameDisaster Master is an 8-level game that tests children’s knowledge about how to react before, during, and after a disaster. The player must answer questions correctly to accumulate enough points to unlock the next level, which include: wildfire, tornado, hurricane/blackout, home fire, winter storm, tsunami/earthquake, thunderstorm/lightning, and the hot seat. Each level tells a story and asks multiple choice questions about what the characters should do to survive the disaster. If the question is answered correctly the player continues to the next level, but if it is answered incorrectly the game could be ended. A graphic novel is also available to print after every level. This game is an easy, entertaining, and engaging way to help teach your children about what to do to prepare for an emergency. A Spanish version is also available.

Opening screen shot of the Build a Kit online gameBuild a Kit  places you in multiple scenarios and tells you to pick items to place in your emergency kit. Once you submit your items it tells you what you have included and what you forgotten. You can print your list at the end of the game. This game, available in English and Spanish, is a quick and easy way for children to begin learning what goes into an emergency kit so they can help prepare for a disaster.

Disaster Hero is a multilevel video game that tests children’s (grades 1 through 8) knowledge about natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Disaster Hero allows the player to choose an experience level, and then launches into an age appropriate narration. Each level contains games pertaining to what to do before, during and after each disaster, including: make a kit, get to a safe room, stay informed, clean up, and first aid. In each game questions pertaining to the disaster at hand are asked, and points are given for correct answers. Each disaster has a bonus round where the knowledge about that disaster is tested once again. This game is an interesting and entertaining way to help your children solidify what they should do before, during, and after a natural disaster.

 

 


Written by Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant.

1. Add an emergency supply kit to your child’s book bag or locker.
Back-to-School-Internet-Safety
You know you need an emergency supply kit at home. Do you know that  having a kit for your child at school is also important? The kit may come in handy if the school goes on lockdown or if there is another disaster or emergency. Make sure everything in the kit is allowed. Most schools do not allow knives on campus or medicine outside the nurse’s office.
Include emergency contact information cards in your child’s kit, book bag, or another accessible location. Even though your child may be old enough to memorize emergency contact numbers, he or she might forget the number during an emergency, or might be in a situation where someone else needs to call.

2. Use a map to mark your child’s school route, designating safe zones where he or she can get help during an emergency.
If your child is walking or riding a bike to school show him or her the way a few times. The child should be comfortable taking the route. Remind him or her that shortcuts are not permitted. Point out places along the way that offer shelter if there is ever bad weather, or some other threat. These places could be other schools, community centers, libraries, or friends’ houses. Having these safe zones will make you and your child feel more secure on the journey to and from school.

3. Review the school’s safety plan with your child.
Most schools are now required to post tornado and fire evacuation routes in every classroom. In addition, each school will have an emergency operations plan. You can ask the school principal for a copy. Also ask what plans they have in place to protect against intruders.

4. Teach your child how to react in an emergency.
Teachers cannot always protect children when things go wrong. Talk to your child about these events without using fear tactics, and explain what he or she should do in similar situations. For example, your child should know what to do if a person shoots a gun on the school grounds or in the building. Students of varying ages will benefit from the Auburn University Department of Public Safety video demonstrating what to do if there is an active shooter nearby. Teach your child about ALICE; it may keep him or her safe.

ALICE is an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. The letters do not have to be used in this order, the situation determines what should be done. Alert refers to how you learn about the danger. Lockdown refers to locking and barricading the door between you and the aggressor. Inform refers to telling the authorities where you are and where the aggressor is. Counter should be used if the aggressor makes it into your safe area. Do not just hide. Distract and disrupt the aggressor by throwing whatever is at your disposal: bookbags, books, desks, or whatever is within reach. The police suggest that Evacuate is the best option; remove yourself and anyone else from harms way if at all possible.

For more resources about helping children before and after disasters visit this website.


Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Dr. Andy Vestal, who will have a breakout session at the EDEN Annual Meeting. 

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN? Dr. Andy Vestal

I got involved in EDEN about a month before Hurricane Katrina, in July of 2005. I was immediately led to the effort because of a six-year grant for animal disease and homeland security response and recovery. Within a month of being in this position, Hurricane Katrina hit followed by Hurricane Rita, and we realized we had a lot to do preparedness-wise. The fall of 2005 was my first visit to the EDEN Annual Meeting in Fargo, North Dakota. It was an experience for me to see the overall mission and goals of the organization: to help people help themselves.

2. Without divulging too much of your annual meeting material, can you tell us how the strike teams were formed?

After any incident an after action report is filed. After [Hurricane] Ike the report stated there was high priority to establish mission ready teams of seasoned County Extension Agents, CEA, that were deployable. The first teams were established in the Gulf Coast, where 7 million Texans live.

3. What are some of the disasters that have affected Texas over the past few years and how have you been involved?

In 2008 when Hurricane Ike hit us it was a challenge; 32,000 families lost their homes along with a large agricultural loss. Hurricane Ike, though only a category 2 hurricane, was about 450 miles wide. It pushed an 18 foot wall of water 20 miles inland, covering mostly ranchland that had about 35,000 head of cattle. We realized that within 72 hours the cattle would have saline toxicity, because all they had to drink was salt water. We deployed our strike teams to create Livestock Supply Points, LSP’s, and from September 13 to 30 we received and distributed over 125 semi-truck loads of feed and hay. By week 3, we started shipping about 15,000 head of cattle into other parts of the state.

In 2011 every geographic region of Texas had challenges with wildfires; there were over 32,000 in the state, and dozens were 50,000 acres or greater; over 3 million acres burnt. Our Livestock Supply Points and CEA strike teams were again activated to stand up 13 LSP’s. Our goal was not to put out fires, but to help landowners with displaced livestock. We received and distributed approximately 120 semi-truck loads of hay and feed. We were much better prepared, because we had about 50 County Extension Agents that were seasoned, trained, and mission ready.

4. What has been the most rewarding thing you have done in terms of disaster preparedness for your state?

The Hurricane Ike recovery, “Operation No Fences” on YouTube shows the land and livestock owners response, along with county agents and other volunteer organizations. The support we built for them was rewarding to our county extension agents because we had farmers and ranchers that had lost everything. To find that we had a mobilized team supporting them was unexpected, but extremely helpful. We estimate we saved the USDA indemnity program more than $10 million by shipping cattle out, since it saved their lives, and it costs about $600 a head to bury cattle. Also about 80% of the cattle shipped out had brands and/or ear tags; we had brand inspectors to help identify the rightful owners. Through these efforts we were able to maintain the strong fabric of the local agricultural economy in that area.

5. Have you worked on any multi-state projects through EDEN and what have those been?

I have had two major multi-state projects through EDEN. Both were funded by the Department of Homeland Security, DHS, at Texas A&M. The goal of the first was to strengthen crisis communications. We adopted the Association for Communication Excellence, ACE, group’s curriculum called “Media Relations Made Easy.” We incorporated an animal disease issue scenario into the training and partnered with multiple land grant universities to host a series of six workshops using that curriculum. We had about 180 Ag communicators from 29 states and Canada attend.

The second project was partnering with 22 state veterinarians and extension programs to test and establish an animal health network in those states. This program is still up and running. The mission of that project was to improve upon the state veterinarian’s capability to have early detection and rapid response to animal diseases, especially in smaller, hobby farms.

6. What do you think is the most important thing EDEN delegates can do to help the citizens in their states?

Learn from other state’s experiences. There’s a lot of different material and experiences that states can learn from each other. When we learn from each other we may reinvent something we learned from Washington State to fit our state, but the fact that we have guidance is extremely valuable.

If you haven’t yet registered for 2014 EDEN Annual Meeting, follow this link to register.

 


Who Turned the Lights Out?

When temperatures dip to the single digits, and the winds are blowing in from the north, and snow is piling up at your front door, what’s your plan for when the power goes out?

Photo attributed to Flickr user Roadsidepictures.

Photo attributed to Flickr user Roadsidepictures.

Unfortunately , winter power outages are not an uncommon occurrence in many parts of our country. If you live in one of these areas, here are some tips to help you and your family get through the next power outage.

  •  If you have no alternative heat, you can consider staying in an emergency shelter, call your local fire or police department or local Red Cross chapter for shelter locations.
  • Call your power provider, if your power is likely to be out for more than a few days, you may want to call your plumber and ask about draining your home’s water pipes so they don’t freeze and burst.
  • Keep your car’s gas tank full. You never know if you may need to go to a warming station or emergency shelter.
  • Wear layers of clothing. Layering can keep insulating air between layers to help keep you warmer. Remember to keep your head and hands covered.
  • Cook using charcoal or propane grills – ONLY OUTSIDE.
  • Put aside buckets of snow and melt it to use in toilets.
  • Keep a land line phone, you won’t have to worry about charging a cell phone.

You might also consider stocking up on:

  • Candles, oil lamps, lanterns and matches
  • Battery operated weather radio
  • Flashlights and batteries for  each family member
  • Non-perishable food items
  • Bottled water
  • Propane for an OUTDOOR grill
  • Extra gasoline if you have a generator. A portable electric generator can be a valuable backup source of power to operate your furnace and appliances.
  • First-aid supplies
  • Emergency numbers – fire, police, doctor
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Paper goods: Paper plates, paper towels, plastic ware

Source: “Winter Power Outages: Be prepared for that unexpected winter power outage” from Michigan State University Extension


Pack It Up

The school year is finally coming to an end. Which means your children will be spending more time at home, and driving you insane. (I’m just kidding, I know your children are perfect little darlings ALL the time.)

Have you thought about utilizing this summer as an opportunity to get your family prepared for the next disaster? You can get your whole family involved while the kids are home this summer.

Why don’t you start by implementing some family preparedness games into your children’s playing regime? FEMA’s Ready.gov has quite a few game options to choose from. I personally really like Pack It Up, a disaster preparedness spin on the classic matching game.

Pick It Up

Screen capture of the Pack It Up game from Ready.gov.

Take a look around the Ready.gov site. Not only do they have my favorite matching game, but also scavenger hunts, crosswords, coloring pages, and so much more.

Making disaster preparedness fun will encourage your children to take action. Work as a family to get a kit, make a plan, be informed, and get involved! Make this the summer your family becomes prepared for anything.