FEMA plans disaster-preparedness effort for youth

WASHINGTON: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is gearing up to launch a national education effort to get more youths involved in preparing for potential disasters.

WASHINGTON: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is gearing up to launch a national education effort to get more youths involved in preparing for potential disasters.

The campaign, called You Be the Hero, will launch September 1. CarrotNewYork, which was hired after an RFP process, created the initiative. The firm is working with a budget of nearly $494,000, according to federal records.

FEMA wants to empower children in grades 1 through 12 with the knowledge, awareness, and life-protecting skills to prepare them for emergencies such as blackouts, fires, and floods.

“Preparedness shouldn't only be on the parent's shoulders,” said Deb Levy, creative director at Carrot. “Kids are often the impetus for parents to act; when kids are motivated, parents are motivated.”

The firm was mindful that natural disasters can be an intimidating subject for young people, so it created a graphic novel that focuses on six characters representing FEMA's diverse audience across gender, ethnicity, and physical ability.

The concept is to not only make the topic more accessible for young adults, but to ensure that everyone feels like part of a team and is equally able to handle emergencies.

Carrot's scope of work also includes designing educational curriculum for free distribution to teachers in classrooms nationwide. It has also created a website to help families prepare for emergencies before they happen. The plans include 15 disaster factsheets and child and family checklists and communications plans.

This is the first time FEMA has aggressively targeted children, said Darryl Madden, director of FEMA's Ready campaign. It chose Carrot to work on the effort because the firm had experience with youth outreach on the federal level for clients such as the US Department of Agriculture.

FEMA previously operated web properties that targeted children, but they “lacked an element of engagement,” Madden said. “Children and youth want to see scenarios based on their lives.”

The federal agency will supplement the firm's work with grassroots outreach, events, and media relations. It is also working with the Ad Council on PSAs for the effort.

The Ready campaign, FEMA's flagship disaster-preparedness outreach effort, has generated more than $900 million in estimated donated media support and has exceeded 12 billion media impressions as of 2011, according to the federal agency.

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