I was training a bunch of future instructors in Georgia last week when the question came up, “How will we get people to practice preparedness.” I started in to my normal conversation about habits. If we can get to the children in their formative years, teach them good preparedness habits, eventually we will have a generation of people that are prepared, and more importantly, believe in preparedness. Unfortunately, as we are all aware, children are taught fire safety in school, yet when they go home, many times the lesson is lost on the parents. Therefore, we need to continue to teach our children to form good habits and get to that point in which we have a generation of adults that believe in preparedness and encourage their children in these good habits.

As the school year begins today for many of our parents and their children, I want to remind everyone that September is National Preparedness Month. Hopefully when your child comes home from school, you will share the concepts your child has learned and encourage them to be prepared.

Last year I wrote an article about parents sending off their pride and joy to universities and colleges around the world. I explained the benefits to making sure your children have a disaster action plan for their life away from home. Many of you contacted me and I forwarded a basic college action plan, and this is a good start. However, we are still missing the mark with the masses. College is a long way from home, no matter what the physical distance. Our children are exposed to all types of dangers and potential disasters and need to be prepared before an incident occurs. As I begin this semester, I took a look at my class roster for my undergraduate course, Introduction to Emergency Management. It dawned on me that well over half my class is filled with students who are not emergency management students. I have a discussion board in which the students introduce themselves to the class and answer the question of why they are in this class. Many of the students answered that they are taking this particular class because it is online. Online does not equate to easier when it comes to course work, but it is easier if you live a distance from campus and do not want to drive here. While some would be disturbed with these types of explanations, I look at this as a tremendous opportunity to spread my message of preparedness. The students in our program understand the meaning our preparedness and are walking the talk. Now, I have an opportunity to educate many students who understand very little about emergency management.

At this point, some of you are reading this and stating the obvious, “just because they are in the course does not mean they will take preparedness seriously.” And, I would agree with you except for one thing, I am not teaching them in the traditional sense. Every assignment is a practical exercise in preparedness. The students have to create their own disaster action plan. The students have to research and write a paper on what they would do if severe weather closed campus and they were stuck wherever they are living. The students have to develop a short preparedness video for elementary school students. These are just a few of the “practical” assignments students have in this course. This last assignment gives us two huge benefits, one the research and educational process for our students, and two, the videos are being posted on social media, “Life Saving Seconds” on Youtube, so that we can have teachers show short preparedness videos to that next generation. We are turning what some might have viewed as lemons into lemonade. We are just in the infancy stage of this important work, but with each semester, we are growing the knowledgebase and growing our library of videos.

Preparedness isn’t just a word or something that emergency managers do, it has to become a habit and way of life for everyone, so we are all better prepared no matter what the disaster.