“What is a tornado?” asks Emergency Preparedness Red Cross representative ShaRhonda Fox.
“Really deadly” and “a funnel” say students.
Ms. Fox shows the boys and girls on a color-coded hazard map that along with home fires, tornadoes are the most prevalent threat in Arkansas.
The students excitedly raise their hands to help Ms. Fox describe what we should do in the case of a tornado. One student learned, “Look on the news. If [a] tornado [is] coming, [we] should prepare, get bottles of water, and things and get to a shelter.” The kids are listening, and additionally they learn to take shelter in a basement or a closet, bathroom or hallway with no windows.
But first be prepared.
That is what this month’s Pillowcase Project for the students of Ida Burns Elementary School in Conway, AR is about. Kids Learn, Practice and Share emergency preparedness.
All through the school year, the Red Cross sends out representatives to 3rd, 4th and 5th graders across the country to teach preparedness for hazards such as tornadoes and fires. The kids are taught their area’s deadliest hazards and how to prepare for them.
Part of the emergency preparedness for tornadoes and some other hazards is to have a pillowcase ready with emergency supplies like the ones Ms. Fox hands out to the kids this day—a compact blanket, glow stick and whistle. The kids are taught life-saving skills such as hunching down on the floor with your hands over your head, and they are taught to talk with their parents about having an emergency escape plan and emergency contacts ready.
But Ms. Fox also teaches the kids coping skills for when those disasters make them sad, nervous or scared. The kids learn to control their breathing or sing a song that makes them happy, and the kids learn how to help a buddy by sticking close to and telling him or her a story.
The kids learn to take care of themselves, but more importantly they learn to take care of each other—families and friends.
The Pillowcase Project was started in New Orleans and inspired by university students carrying their belongings in pillowcases during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
If you are interested in becoming part of the Pillowcase Project to help with emergency preparedness, register at redcross.org/volunteer or contact your local Red Cross chapter. It only takes a couple of online classes and one real-time practice to become a Red Cross Pillowcase Project volunteer, and you will help children—who then help their families—be prepared.