I have spent a great amount of time researching disaster preparedness, and in particular, how we can do a better job of preparing our citizens. In recent presentations at several conferences, the same issues are common, the “it won’t happen here” philosophy is stronger than the need to prepare.
As I continue my research, at issue is how do we get our citizens at large to prepare? One of the current research agendas is to work with school age children, similar to the Fire Prevention Education we teach in elementary through high school. Why do we “only” teach Fire Prevention Education and some basic crime prevention, such as “Active Shooter Drills?” Would it not make more sense to teach disaster preparedness, which then encompasses all types of “being prepared?”
In meeting with colleagues who teach early childhood education and doing various research, another light bulb moment arose, by the time children get into the educational process, they have already formed many of their habits and traits. Therefore, we need to begin this preparedness education in pre-school, or before our children get into the educational process, and then do reinforcement learning throughout K-12 and even into higher education. If we can develop these good habits, when we do follow-up it will just be “normal” for our citizens as they grow up and enter society as adults.
All of this led to some interesting discussion with various undergraduate courses I teach in emergency management. Then, as one of my student’s posted, “I had an ah-ha moment!” Just like many of our teenagers and young adults today do not accept many things based upon the theory of “this is how we have always done it,” why do we not use this same approach to disaster preparedness education?
Here is where I am going with this and how potentially I see us turning the corner on proper disaster preparedness for the “Whole Community.” We need to begin now with those short, entertaining teaching tools, videos, games, etc. We then reinforce with progressively more education that again is informative but fun. Once we can get a generation to “accept this as the new normal,” that generation will then not accept unsafe conditions or lack of preparedness as the way it is and the way it should be. Every generation had moments in which they no longer accepted the way it was, let’s use this moving forward for educating the masses on proper preparedness so that future generation will “No Longer Accept” a lack of preparedness as “just the way it is!”