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Stuart Hales
September 14, 2007

Parents are a child's first and most important teachers, not just in terms of imparting information and skills but also modeling behaviors and shaping attitudes. Children whose parents eat nutritious meals and exercise daily, for example, are more likely to adopt healthy lifestyles than their peers whose parents have different dietary and exercise habits. Children whose parents read frequently and talk about political and social issues are more likely to be inquisitive about such matters than their friends whose parents do not model such behaviors.

The same is true of preparedness. Children whose parents take steps to prepare for emergencies and discuss the importance of being prepared are more likely to take the same actions themselves.

floor plan

Now, the American Red Cross is making it easier for parents to teach their children to be prepared by offering family-based modules of its acclaimed Masters of Disaster curriculum. Originally developed for educators in primary and secondary schools, Masters of Disaster now includes lessons and activities for families on topics such as fire prevention and safety, calling for help in emergencies, and identifying and avoiding unsafe situations in kitchens and bathrooms.

Age-Appropriate Activities

The expansion of the Masters of Disasters curriculum marks an important step in the ongoing effort to encourage more Americans to be "Red Cross Ready." As part of that effort, the Red Cross is urging the public to take three steps—

  • Get a kit;
  • Make a plan; and
  • Be informed.

"The American Red Cross wants families to have the confidence and peace of mind that goes along with knowing they are prepared for disasters and emergencies," says Darlene Sparks Washington, director of preparedness for the American Red Cross. "To help achieve this goal, we look for various opportunities to integrate preparedness into the daily lives of individuals, families, communities, schools and businesses."

To make it as easy as possible for families, educators, employers, and others to prepare for emergencies, the Red Cross has posted the Masters of Disaster curriculum, a Be Red Cross Ready interactive education module, and other emergency preparedness resources on its Website. Roughly 30,000 people visit the site each day, and many do so to get information about, or register for, a course in first aid, CPR, or other emergency response skill.

By making Masters of Disaster available to families to use at home, the Red Cross is hoping parents will help teach the importance of preparedness to their children. Like the school-based curriculum, the home-based program is arranged into topic areas that discuss actions to prepare for disasters and prevent injuries. Each topic area, in turn, is divided into three "levels" of information, with Level 1 corresponding to children learning at a K-2 grade level, Level 2 corresponding to grades 3-5, and Level 3 corresponding to grades 6-8.

The lessons for each level in each topic area provide information and suggest age-appropriate activities. For example, the Level 1 lesson about fire prevention and safety includes various hands-on activities, such as making a floor plan of your home to depict escape routes in case of fire. The Level 3 lesson about home safety contains a section about the causes and types of burns and asks readers to make three lists: (1) the burn hazards they think are present in their home, (2) the burn hazards they actually find in their home, and (3) ways to avoid or correct the burn hazards they find.

A Culture of Preparedness

Through these lessons and activities, the Red Cross hopes to make learning about preparedness interesting to children and teenagers and to their parents as well.

"Many common accidents and injuries are caused by not understanding how to change the way we act or change our environment to be safer," says Heidi Taylor, Red Cross senior associate for preparedness. "The goal of Masters of Disaster is to create a culture of preparedness among youth—one where safety and readiness are top of mind, whether they're at home, at school, or just hanging out with friends."

The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.

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