Sesame Workshop Develops Family Friendly Resources on Emergency Preparedness

Fun and easy ways to help the whole family prepare for any type of emergency.

It's a fact of life that not every day is a sunny day. Recent events have exposed families to a range of disasters; the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 have particularly emphasized the need to ensure children's physical and psychological protection. Despite this need, there are limited resources for families looking to instruct young children in how to proceed if an emergency situation occurs.

The numbers are daunting. According to a recent national survey commissioned by the Children's Health Fund, approximately 65 percent of families in the United States do not have an emergency plan that all family members are aware of. And there's another problem: Spanish-language resources aimed at helping families with emergency preparedness are sorely lacking.

With these facts in mind, Sesame Workshop created "Let's Get Ready! Planning Together for Emergencies" in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security's Ready Kids initiative and the Ad Council's ongoing emergency preparedness effort. Ready Kids is geared toward older children, while the Sesame Workshop component is primarily targeted at 3- to 5-year-olds.

The multiple media resource is available in English and Spanish, and seeks to help the entire family prepare for unexpected events. "Let's Get Ready" explains in an age-appropriate way how each member of a family -- including the youngest -- can contribute to an emergency readiness plan.

The resources include a Sesame Street DVD, a magazine for parents and caregivers, and a children's activity book. In the DVD, Sesame Street Muppets Grover and Rosita playfully discover simple tasks they can complete with their families to be prepared. The DVD and all the other "Let's Get Ready" materials are based on research and recommendations from experts in emergency and trauma preparedness, pediatrics, mental health, and child development. In addition, the Workshop collaborated with Weill Cornell Medical College's pediatrics department to ensure that the materials are age appropriate and effective.

"Let's Get Ready" encourages children and the adults in their lives to learn about the people in their neighborhood, and to understand the important roles they play in responding to an emergency. Sesame Workshop senior curriculum specialist Makeda Mays, who performed the role of a doctor on the DVD, says it was "particularly exciting and rewarding" to see children interacting with firefighters and police officers.

"There was such a natural connection," Mays says. "You could really tell that the children felt that these people were not only their friends, but also people they could go to in case of an emergency."

The materials also provide parents and caregivers with the tools to discuss emergencies with their young children. Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop's vice president for outreach and educational practices, says that adults can introduce children to the preparedness topic by recognizing the ways families already prepare for unexpected events in their daily routines.

"The best way we know to look at emergency preparedness is really from the scope of making it non-threatening, taking advantage of everyday moments to incorporate it, and doing it in a way that includes young children," Betancourt explains. "The best way to do that is to pick up on daily routines."

It's important for parents and caregivers to know, too, that this preparation doesn't need to take a lot of time from a busy family's routine. "Let's Get Ready" explains, for example, that adults can point out emergency locations like hospitals and police stations while walking their children home from school.

In September 2008, as part of Emergency Preparedness month, Sesame Workshop is distributing 150,000 of the free kits to families.

So let's get ready! ¡Preparémonos! After all, getting a plan together takes only a few simple steps – and it can ensure that families have many sunny days ahead.

Project Partners

Ready Kids
Ad Council
American Greetings
The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation
Department of Pediatrics of Weill Medical College of Cornell University

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