Disaster preparedness at the family level has been the focus of many public health agencies' communications campaigns. Recent collaborations between health agencies and school districts have concentrated on preparedness skills training for children in the classroom, with the belief that children will educate their families.
- Educational policy recommendations. Many states have enacted laws and policies that ask schools to provide age-appropriate preparedness education and training.
- Reliance on schools for specific education. Parents often do not have the resources to know how to prepare for and respond to different types of disasters.
The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), in collaboration with the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Education, developed an emergency preparedness curriculum for students in grades 1-12 and integrated it into an existent health education program.
The Emergency Preparedness Curriculum uses a combination of lessons and experiential activities to teach children how to prepare themselves and their families for emergencies. The curriculum aims to make disaster preparedness a lifestyle by introducing it to children at an early age; it also assumes children will pass on what they have learned to their parents and siblings.
The curriculum presents disaster preparedness skills in a positive way—encouraging children to prevent dangerous situations, stay safe, and become resilient following a disaster. Lesson plans address common hazards that children may experience at school or home, including a power outage, flooding, severe weather, communicable disease, and violence.
Four to five lessons are available for elementary school teachers to integrate into health instruction, and secondary teachers receive 30 nonsequential lesson plans. The curriculum also provides resources such as student worksheets, resource sheets for families, assessments, PowerPoint presentations, and transparency masters. Interactive activities supplement lessons, so that children build skills in areas such as making a family preparedness kit and reporting violent or threatening behavior.
MDCH released the curriculum to public and private schools in Michigan before the 2011 school year began. Schools integrated the lesson plans into the Michigan Model for Health program, a nationally acclaimed program that provides skills-based lessons for K-12 students in more than 90% of public schools and 200 private schools in Michigan. The model traditionally has focused on preventing the five youth risk behaviors identified by CDC (ie, tobacco use, alcohol/drug use, physical inactivity, sexual risk-taking, and unhealthy diet).
What made this practice possible?
- Federal funding. Support came from the US Department of Homeland Security State Homeland Security Program and Urban Areas Security Initiative, a Hospital Preparedness Program cooperative agreement, and a CDC Public Health Emergency Preparedness cooperative agreement.
- Interdisciplinary collaborations. The curriculum was developed by teachers, school administrators, counselors, social workers, police officers, public health workers, and school health coordinators.
- Alignment with educational standards. Developers made sure that lesson plans conformed to the National Health Education Standards and the Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations.
Two copies of the curriculum were given to every public and nonpublic school in Michigan.
Because 39 states use the Michigan Model for Health, the curriculum can potentially be integrated into school programs across the nation.