• How TV Shows Are Preparing Children for Disasters

    |1 COMMENT(S)

    Tsunami 02Seventeen-year-old Raudhatul Mawaddah had read in a comic book that a tsunami usually follows an earthquake. So after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia on December 26, 2004, despite her father’s objections, she grabbed her 1-month-old stepbrother and 4-year-old stepsister and ran for the mountain near her home, according to an October 2007 UNICEF report. Her home was four kilometers (about 1.3 miles) from the ocean, but it was still hit by flood waters from a tsunami. When the water receded, a stranger’s body was left on her family’s kitchen floor. That tsunami killed 230,000 people, including some 5,000 miles away from the earthquake’s epicenter. But Raudhatul’s family survived.

    It can be tough to prepare children for natural disasters. You might be afraid of scaring them or giving them nightmares. You might not know what’s age-appropriate. Yet studies agree that children who learn about disasters in a safe environment are less afraid during a disaster.

    Here’s the nice bit: You don’t have to figure out how to teach children about emergency preparedness by yourself. PBS Kids, Disney Junior, Sesame Workshop: all have released TV shows and related tools to help with disaster preparedness and coping. Here are some I found.


    Sesame Street, 2001

    The granddaddy of them all. Seriously. This was the earliest emergency preparedness episode I could find. It came out in 2001 and was rebroadcast after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

    In this episode, Big Bird’s nest is destroyed in a hurricane. His friends and neighbors come together to help him rebuild, find places to eat, sleep, and play, and help him cope with his emotions.


    Sesame Street, 2014

    In October 2014, Sesame Street also released its “Let’s Get Ready” series. It offers tools to help kids learn important information like their full name, phone number and names of other family members, like an app, printables and short videos. It also gives information about how to create an emergency plan and how to cope after an emergency.


    The Pillowcase Project, Disney Junior, and American Red Cross,2012

    Monster Guard -Red Cross Monster Guard

    After Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans chapter of the American Red Cross developed the Pillowcase Project, a preparedness education program for children in grades 3-5. It encourages kids to prepare by packing a pillowcase of emergency supplies that they can quickly grab for an emergency evacuation. Disney produced a public service announcement for older kids and created a booklet starring Mickey Mouse and other characters from the TV show Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

    The partnership also produced an app, Monster Guard, in which kids play games to learn about preparing for various types of emergencies.


    Doc McStuffins, 2015

    Through Doc McStuffins, the title character of a Disney Junior show who repairs toys and teaches about life skills, Disney expanded the pillowcase project to preschoolers for this year’s Disaster Preparedness Month. In a one-minute public service announcement, Doc prepares an emergency kit with flashlight, clothes, blanket and snacks, and makes an emergency plan with family contact information.


    Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, 2015

    “Take a grownup’s hand, follow the plan and you’ll be safe,” my kids now sing. Over and over and over again. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a preschool TV show based on characters from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. In a story that lasts a full episode, when a big storm hits the neighborhood, everyone stays safe. They follow a storm safety plan that includes sheltering in a safe place, making an emergency kit, and helping others clean up afterward. The episode also comes with tips and games.


    Arthur, 2015

    This month, PBS Kids also released an episode of Arthur, a cartoon for school-age children, in which the characters coped with the aftermath of a hurricane.

    Again, PBS Kids provided tips and games to help kids be more resilient after a disaster.


    Ready.gov, 2015

    Disaster MasterFEMA’s web site Ready.gov has a game, “Disaster Master,” emergency plan and kit information for kids and information about how to get wireless alerts.

    - Melissa




    Do you know of any other good TV shows or games to help teach kids to prepare? Let us know in the comments section!



    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios Tagged With: Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Arthur, PBS Kids, kids, Prepare, disaster

  • When Disaster Strikes and You Are Not Ready: Lessons from the Philippines

    |1 COMMENT(S)

    In the Philippines, power and running water can be gone at the drop of a hat. Trust me, I know from experience. One moment you’re walking down the street under the street lights, the next…darkness. It makes for quite the dangerous walk, considering all the deep holes in the sidewalks (fortunately, I only fell in one hole my entire time there). Having lived in the Philippines for a couple years, I’ve experienced all kinds of things that really opened my eyes to why we prepare for emergencies. One event in particular stands out in my mind.


    The Tropical Storm

    Malaya 2-Rice on RoadIn the fall of 2006, I was living in a small town in the province of Rizal. A single road splits the town in half. On either side of the road, there are a few smaller side streets. A large lake is less than a mile West of the main road. Mountains are just to the East, just after the terraces of rice paddies. It is a rural town, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.


    Malaya-PalayanOne of the downsides to beautiful, rural living, however, is that when a tropical storm comes through, there isn’t much to stop it from wreaking havoc. That November, we were hit by a powerful tropical storm. It knocked out our power and stopped our already unreliable running water.

    We had some backup water, but not much. We couldn’t shower, and our dirty laundry just remained dirty. What else could we do? After just two days the water was back on (hurray!), so we had our showers back and our laundry cleaned, and once again we could run our water through our filters for consumption. The power, however, remained off.

    The Philippines is a hot, humid place, which makes for very unpleasant nights without power. The bedroom in which I slept had no window, and there was only one window in the front room. I moved My bed out there and hoped for a little breeze. Because the power was out, our electric fans were useless. The days were hot, and the nights somehow hotter. What I would have given for some electricity!

    After ten days of sleeping in a hot, stuffy room, the power was finally restored, and while it was still hotter than the sun, having that breeze move across my face while I slept felt – if just for a moment – like the cold, arctic wind. A little electricity can work wonders.

    Unfortunately, all the food in the fridge went bad. Instead of keeping food for days before cooking it, we had to buy food the day we wanted to eat it. Nothing would keep. Fishermen were giving their fish away for free because if they didn’t, it would just go bad.

    A bamboo home near a rice field behind our house was completely washed away by the storm. We knew that family well, and while we were happy that everyone was safe, we were also very sorrowful for their loss. Oddly enough, their neighbor’s home was hardly damaged.

    Even though the storm was too weak to be a hurricane, it still created quite a mess. Streets flooded into homes, tree limbs littered the ground, blocking the road, and damaging property. Food and clean water was in short supply. Cleanup took quite some time.


    Lessons Learned

    Malaya 2-Kitchen We had to collect our water in a bucket, then pump that water through a filter before we could drink it.

    While the experience was less than desirable, it showed how we can be prepared. More than ever, the water filter we used was a life saver. Of course, we always used it, because water in the Philippines just isn’t safe without it. However, after the storm caused floods and stirred the pot, so to speak, the water was even less safe than before. Having a water filter for when the water stops running is, in my opinion, one of the greatest resources you can have.

    Another hot commodity was electricity. Without a way to stay cool, sleep was more than just difficult – it was nearly impossible. I would fall asleep fanning my face with some sort of paper or cardboard, then wake up with a start when the hot, humid air began to suffocate me again. If your power goes out during a hot summer (or a cold winter, for that matter), having a way to stay cool (or warm) can make life a whole lot more bearable.

    Having no power was a pain for more than just sleeping. Not being able to keep food long term was difficult at best. By having long-term food storage, losing power won’t affect your ability to eat. Having extra food on hand would have been a huge benefit to us during this emergency.

    You will never know the extent of damage a disaster will cause until it actually happens. The Philippines is prone to huge typhoons, so we were lucky this was just a little guy. Still, we were affected for over a week without certain things that here in America we tend to take for granted.


    Before the next disaster comes to your neck of the woods, I urge you to prepare your home and family for any scenario. Know the disasters that are prone to your region and prepare accordingly. And if, after a disaster, it turns out you over prepared, then that’s far better than the alternative. I would much rather be over prepared than underprepared.


    Have you ever been left without power or water following a disaster? What did you do?



    Posted In: Planning Tagged With: tropical storm, not prepared, philippines, power, water, disaster

  • Is Our Power Grid At Risk?

    |2 COMMENT(S)

    On August 14, 2003, high voltage power lines in Ohio brushed against trees and failed. A software bug kept an alarm from going off, which caused a chain reaction of power station failures that knocked the lights off for 50 million people in the eastern United States and Canada. Transportation shut down as airports, subways, traffic lights and tunnels stopped functioning. Cash registers and ATMs quit. Cell phones became useless when their towers stopped working. In Cleveland, Ohio, water pumps halted and left 1.5 million people without drinking water. The blackout caused $4 to $6 billion in damage and contributed to at least 11 deaths.

    Night Before Blackout - Power grid The night before the blackout (source: NOAA News)
    Night After Blackout - Power grid The night after the blackout (source: NOAA News)








    We in the U.S. don’t usually think about power. So let’s consider it.


    Electric Power System and Control Communications - Power grid Electric Power System and Control Communications (source: energy.gov)

    Electricity is unique. Unlike food or water, electricity can’t be stored. In any moment, all the power produced is used. It’s generated by one of 6,000 public and private power plants and sent hundreds or thousands of miles through high voltage wires. The whole system is divided into four regional grids. Most of the time, it’s a consistent, convenient flow. It’s designed so if one part of a grid fails, the electricity flow is transferred to another part. If a smooth transfer doesn’t happen, however, the electricity load can behave like a flash flood, sending a blast of power a station isn’t equipped to handle. When that station’s breakers fail, its electricity gets transferred to yet another station. If enough stations fail, there’s nowhere for the power to go. It slams through station after station, all of which shut down to protect themselves. Blackout.

    Alternatively, if one power plant fails, others might not immediately have enough power to supply everyone’s needs. This is an especial concern in the eastern U.S. during winter. Some plants run on natural gas. But heating needs take precedence. So if there’s not enough natural gas to both heat the population and generate electricity, electricity goes first. Blackout.

    Both utilities and government have taken many steps to improve the way they handle potential failures, including upgrading software, establishing communication plans and practicing emergencies. Two types of situations in particular make them nervous: geomagnetic storms and cyber and physical attacks.

    Solar Eruption - Power grid Solar eruption (source: NASA)

    The sun constantly barrages the earth with charged particles. Normally, the magnetic field around the earth stops most of the particles – and creates the aurora borealis light shows. Especially during times of high sunspot activity, however, the sun can eject a light-speed blast of x-rays and energy, called a solar flare, and particles from its outer layer, called a coronal mass ejection. A NASA writer compared the solar flare to a cannon flash and a coronal mass ejection to the cannonball. When the cannon flash hits the earth, it can disrupt radio communication and navigation. The cannonball is much worse. It can create electrical currents that can overload utilities. A 1989 geomagnetic storm took only 90 seconds to collapse a northeastern Canadian power grid. Millions of people lost power for up to nine hours. The storm also caused minor damage throughout the U.S.

    Longer outages of several days, even in one area, could cause widespread government, financial, and infrastructure destruction, according to a National Research Council workshop.

    “Loss of these systems for a significant period of time in even one region of the country could affect the entire nation and have international impacts,” one presenter said at the workshop.

    But at least scientists are getting better at predicting solar storms, their strength and duration. They can now give utilities 45 minutes’ warning. It’s something.

    Power Grid (The Weather Channel) source: The Weather Channel

    A more insidious threat is human attacks. A March 24 USA Today investigation found that the nation’s power grids face a physical or cyber-attack once every four days. Unless the attackers are, say, from the hacker group Anonymous, they don’t usually give any warning.

    On April 16, 2013, attackers cut six underground fiber-optic cables at a substation in northern California then fired more than 100 shots at its transformers. They caused more than $15 million in damage. They were never caught.

    Utilities and government agencies are trying to prepare for attacks. Every few years, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation runs a cyber attack response exercise. In its first, in 2011, 75 organizations participated. Its third is planned for this November.

    However, even the Department of Homeland Security’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team admits it’s impossible to stop all attacks. The best they do is communicate effectively and contain damage.

    After a power grid disaster, government and utilities’ highest priorities will not be you.

    They’ll be getting power plants online and making sure medical facilities and first responders have the watts they need, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

    “While these government and industry groups initially focus on critical facilities, homeowners, business owners, and local leaders may have to take an active role in dealing with energy disruptions on their own,” the DOE wrote.

    Here are some ways to prepare, from Ready.gov, the American Red Cross and the DOE.

    • Have a fully stocked emergency kit including food and water, a flashlight, batteries, cash in small bills, and first aid supplies.
    • Keep your cell phone and other battery-powered devices charged and have an alternative charging method. If you have an electric garage door opener, know how to release it manually.
    • Keep your car’s gas tank full. You can run a vehicle for power, but not in an enclosed space, unless you like carbon monoxide poisoning.
    • If you use a power-dependent or battery-operated medical device, tell your local utility so it can prioritize your home. Have a backup plan.
    • Find out where to buy dry ice. Fifty pounds will keep a fully stocked fridge cold for two days. Without it, an unopened fridge will keep food cold for only about four hours. A half-full, unopened freezer will keep food cold for about 24 hours. Food in a packed, unopened freezer will stay cold for twice that long.

    Several months ago, a nearby transformer blew out. It was evening and rapidly getting dark. My special needs daughter panicked. I had my cell phone and its flashlight, but only about 10 percent of charge remained.

    I had a flashlight, but its batteries were dead. By the rapidly diminishing power from my phone’s light, I found batteries and got it working. My daughter calmed down. But the power didn’t come back on for several hours, and the electric company was working on the transformer well into the next day.

    I learned two lessons. First, keep my phone charged (maybe I haven’t learned that one yet). Second, know where emergency equipment is and make sure it’s in good shape.



    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios Tagged With: electricity, failure, power grid, power outage

  1. 7-9 of 963 items

Please wait...