Preparedness Newsletter

This Digest is provided by FEMA's Individual & Community Preparedness Division to highlight community preparedness and resilience resources, an important part of FEMA's mission to help people before, during, and after disasters. We're building a culture of preparedness together.

August 2021 Individual and Community Preparedness Newsletter: Back to School, YPC Summit & Community Preparedness

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Ready Tips

A New School Year in a New Normal

Kids will be heading back to school soon. Some haven't set foot in a classroom for more than a year; others spent part of the year learning virtually and part in person; and some students spent the majority of the school year in the classroom. 

With many places getting back to “normal,” most learning may take place in person as schools open their doors once again. However, in-person learning could still look different than it did pre-pandemic. Some schools may still require masks and social distancing and have other new safety measures in place. No matter what your school's protocols, follow these tips for a healthier and safer school year:

  • Remind your child about the importance of handwashing to help avoid getting sick, not just from COVID-19, but the common cold as well. Singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice is still a good practice!

  • Pack a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your child's backpack if the school allows it.

  • Know the emergency plan for your child's school and/or childcare facility and practice it with your child.

  • Review your family's emergency plan together, and keep the information in a safe place like a backpack, wallet, or taped in a notebook, that way your child will know where to meet and whom to contact in case an emergency happens during the school day.

For more information on Children and Youth preparedness, please visit

CERT & Communities

Formalize and Test Your Preparedness Game Plans 

As a business owner or leader of an organization, you may have thought about ways to mitigate risk and keep your doors open in the aftermath of a disaster, but there comes a time to put pencil to paper and formalize preparedness plans. As you explore what your organization needs to do to prepare for emergencies, it's a good practice to engage with your staff. They may provide different perspectives.

Plans are not useful until they are documented and communicated to those involved. They then need to be regularly updated and tested to prepare employees for real-time incidents and identify any gaps.

Formalizing plans can involve steps like selecting an emergency manager for your organization or maintaining emergency kits in your office. Make sure your emergency manager is connected to community authorities and distributes your plans to relevant stakeholders. Incorporating other entities into your emergency planning can be helpful. For example, perhaps your organization could have a plan to share a workspace at another group's place of business if your office is affected by an incident.

Taking your plans from ideas to practice is a vital step for your organization as you prepare for emergencies. FEMA's Organizations Preparing for Emergency Needs (OPEN) can help with formalizing plans and much more. This web-based course lays out 10 preparedness actions you can take, whether you're a nonprofit, small business, faith-based organization, or other community-based group. Read more...

Teen CERTs Serve Their Communities 

After a long Nebraska winter in 2019, the state's flat plains were still frozen solid in mid-March of that year, blanketed with the remains of record-setting snow. Then it began to rain, and the downpours melted snow on the ground. The runoff flowed toward frozen rivers and creeks because the ground was too frozen to absorb it.

The town of Fremont was trapped between the overflowing Platte and Elkhorn Rivers, becoming a virtual island, with the only way in or out by air. Homes throughout the surrounding area flooded, including the home of Dodge County resident, Chevelle Spracklin.

That disaster inspired Spracklin, a rising high school sophomore, to join Dodge County's new Teen Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) this summer. Teen CERT volunteers help in a variety of ways during and after an emergency. This includes assisting in evacuations, organizing volunteers, providing damage assessment information, and assisting with crowd control.

“A lot of kids don't realize what they can do and how much they're capable of. It's nice to be able to show them they can help others by helping themselves,” Spracklin said.

The 2019 flooding also motivated Dodge County Emergency Management Director Thomas Smith to start the county's first-ever Teen CERT. He had hoped to initiate the program in 2019, but COVID-19 postponed those plans until this year.

“Teen CERTS can be very rewarding programs. The teens graduate, go to college, and become part of the community afterward, where they can still actively help. You're teaching them safety skills for life,” Smith said. Read more...

Children & Disasters

New Teacher Resources for a New School Year 

Kick off a new school year with fun and engaging activities while learning about preparedness! FEMA's updated Student Tools for Emergency Planning (STEP) curriculum and digital hazard lessons are perfect for teachers and after-school programs looking for modular, quick, and easy lessons to jumpstart student creativity.

The STEP program helps youth understand a variety of hazards, from tornadoes to pandemics, and how to stay safe. Designed for students in the fourth and fifth grade, you can also tailor STEP for older and younger students alike.

This free resource offers three core lessons that introduce emergency preparedness. These lessons walk students through creating an emergency kit and a family communication plan. Between engaging activities and multimedia materials, STEP augments learning in a variety of areas. For example, short stories on thunderstorms and wildfires featuring kids, reinforce reading skills, while an interactive map that highlights where disasters will most likely occur across the U.S. helps boost learning in both science and geography.

For those familiar with the original STEP curriculum, the updated material offers a wealth of new options. This includes digital activities for completion at school or home. Five new digital hazard lessons provide engaging information and activities. An all-new companion activity book includes stories, puzzles, and journaling exercises to support the lessons. You can teach each module in as little as 30 minutes. Each one is available in print and online.

In addition to STEP, FEMA offers more free resources for home or the classroom. The Prepare with Pedro activity book and Ready 2 Help card game offer rainy day recess fun. They are also great to have on hand if a substitute is teaching at school. Read more...


ICPD Hosts Another Successful Virtual Youth Preparedness Council Summit

In July, FEMA's Individual and Community Preparedness Division (ICPD) hosted its annual Youth Preparedness Council (YPC) summit.

ICPD brought together 15 national Youth Preparedness Council (YPC) young leaders from across the nation who are interested in supporting disaster preparedness. This year, 10 new members were selected from the largest pool of applicants FEMA has seen yet. They join five returning members on the council as well as several mentors. While on the council, members contribute based on their wide range of backgrounds and interests, such as pet preparedness or climate change, all while holding a common ambition: preparing their families, peers, schools, and communities to be resilient in the face of disasters.

The theme of this year's summit was “Equity into Everything,” with sessions that covered topics including accessibility, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the power of media and storytelling.

Among the numerous notable speakers, council members had the honor of being joined at the summit by the Second Gentleman of the United States, Douglas Emhoff . Mr. Emhoff praised the YPC members for their dedication to community disaster preparedness and engaged the members in a question-and-answer session.

Congresswoman Dina Titus, who chairs the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management as part of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure also joined the summit. Congresswoman Titus discussed the intersection of emergency management and the legislative branch and also answered member questions. Read more...

Important Dates


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