For the last two days I had the privilege of meeting with an amazing group of people who form the newly established Disaster Resilient Australia School Education Network, at the Australian Emergency Management Institute in Mt Macedon, Victoria.
The aim of the meeting was to establish a cross-sectoral group to examine current resourcing of educational programs that support this area, and to identify partnerships and ways to work together to construct resources that span across the range of emergency services, to promote a strong shared message of how to prevent, prepare, respond and recover (PPRR) when facing hazards such as Bushfires, Climate Change, Cyclones, Droughts, Earthquakes, Floods, Heatwaves, Landslides, Pandemics, Severe Storms, Tsunami or Volcanoes.
Meeting with representatives from diverse groups, including those immediately involved with emergency management such as the Country Fire Authority, the Fire and Emergency Services Authority of WA, Save the Children, Red Cross, Green Cross and the Bureau of Meteorology, as well as educational representatives from the Geography and Science Teachers Associations and experts in the field of Psychology, Human Services and Disaster Research was a rich example of the value of sharing multiple perspectives.
Australia is a wild and unpredictable country, and the importance of a strong educational program cannot be understated. Listening to Professor Kevin Ronan speak on the first morning on why disaster resilience education is so important, it became clear that although many people know they should prepare for a possible disaster, many don’t. Professor Ronan shared that when asked, 90% of respondents in one study agreed that preparedness was important, however less than 50% had a plan, and even less, it is likely, had practiced it.
Focusing on providing school education is vital. Part of Professor Ronan’s presentation, which was also supported by the research conducted by Dr Briony Towers, is that children are aware of, and are afraid of disasters; in a media saturated world, even events that occur on the other side of the world feel frightening. One of the best ways of addressing this fear is to establish what children know, what their misconceptions might be, and to empower them with strategies that will help them cope should a disaster befall them. Educating children is also a way of indirectly influencing families and communities – children are a motivational reservoir, encouraging their family members to act, and connecting families with community. With well educated students, the foundation is laid for a community of future adults who have a resilient mindset to risk and stressors – which is one of the major goals of disaster resilience education.
Fortunately fantastic resources already exist, and more thanks to this network will be on the way. Here are a selection of just some freely available online:
- modern meditation for young people. It’s a simple tool that gives a sense of calm, clarity and contentment. It is a unique web and App-based program developed by a team of psychologists with expertise in youth and adolescent therapy, Mindfulness Meditation and web-based wellness programs.
- a free global resource for using social media and new technologies in emergencies
- a 3D interactive web based game which allows children to choose the state in which they live to create their own cyclone experience by working through one of 5 ‘true-to-life’ cyclone scenarios with one of the game’s characters. The game provides children with the skills to enable them to be better prepared in a real cyclone situation.
- a comprehensive emergency management resource for Australian students and teachers.
- kids learn about getting help by playing games and solving mysteries. They’ll learn about safety messages and hear what happens when you call Triple Zero.
- the After the emergency mp3s and website were developed after the 2009 Victorian bushfires. They are intended to be distributed immediately after a disaster, but may also serve as long-term resources for young people (aged 12-25 years) affected by crisis.
- developed to help you understand the history of severe weather in your suburb and get prepared. Once you understand more about what’s happened in the past, we hope you will take practical steps to get prepared.
- current information and conditions for the beach you would like to visit, hazards you might find and services available to assist in your beach choice to let you relax and enjoy your activities during your stay. Games and educational resources as well as first aid info and more.
There is great work being done in this field, and it is so important. When you are planning for 2013, why not include an inquiry into emergency management – it might just save hundreds of lives…