Following two local disasters, and the bombing of September 11, 2001, a study done by the local Red Cross Chapter determined that many families were not prepared to evacuate their homes with necessary items. In his speech on November 8, 2001, President Bush cited the Senior Corps (which consists of Foster Grandparent Program, Senior Companion Program, RSVP) as he called on Americans to help fight terrorism on the home front by “making a commitment to service in our own communities.” As part of the President’s initiative, Senior Corps members will help prepare Americans in their homes, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, places of worship and public spaces to deal with the potential consequences of terrorist attacks.
With this goal in mind, Audubon Area Senior Service Corps, Foster Grandparent Program, applied for and received a grant form the Corporation for National and Community Service. This homeland security grant was to focus specifically on children’s issues and concerns of safety and security.
Five volunteer stations in two large counties, linked with the Audubon Area Foster Grandparent Program Homeland Security Team to help minimize the concerns of children pertaining to safety as well as disasters, both man-made and natural. The Foster Grandparent Program has formed partnerships with Red Cross, AmeriCorps/VISTA and local community agencies to help educate children in the area of Homeland Security through Disaster Preparedness/Awareness.
Two teams of Foster Grandparent Program senior citizen volunteers age 60 and over, consisting of five members each, receive a wide variety of training. The teams work with each station to coordinate presentations that deal with all aspects of safety/security questions or concerns on a child’s level. Presentation topics include Bike Safety and Emergency Evacuation Plan/Fire Safety.
Two hundred children in after-school programs were educated on the importance of being prepared for a disaster; how to recognize and deal with different types of danger or disasters; and how to prepare and store an emergency bag (E-bag). Two area hospitals donated bags for all 200 children to implement in preparing their own emergency bags. An ‘Emergency Bag’ guideline, developed by Audobon Area Senior Service Corps and approved by Red Cross was used in preparing the E-bags. Local pharmacies donated first-aid supplies (rubber gloves, Band-Aids, gauze and ointment) to help get their “first-aid” kid started.
These ongoing, monthly presentations, which will continue through the year 2004, will have helped children feel more confident when they are in “scary” situations. Their self-esteem has been boosted. They have a better understanding of how to handle themselves in difficult situations. Having an E-Bag ready, with some of their things of their own, provides reassurance to a child who has to evacuate their home during a disaster.