We are highlighting the work of the five groups that participated in the ELGL & UTA Challenge. Teams were tasked with developing community engagement solutions for one of the following areas: budget, infrastructure investment, planning and zoning, and emergency preparedness. (Full details of the challenge can be found here.)
Safe Seniors (and emergency preparedness)
Bringing two kinds of seniors together
Emergencies can occur anywhere, anytime, with little or no warning. Case in point: this past month, I was without power for 12 hours when flooding from days and days of rain hit North and Central Texas. Luckily, I am prepared for power outages and the temperature was not too cold. That could have easily been different.
You may be asking yourself, how could it have been different? The answer rests within two groups of citizens, the elderly and children. Historically these two categories of citizens are both undereducated and underprepared for emergencies.
But the answer to the question does not simply end here. Emergency management professionals readily acknowledge citizens must take steps to be self-sufficient for the first 72 hours following any type of emergency. Coupled with the current state of ‘limited’ or ‘scarce’ resources affecting all levels and services of government, one can easily recognize the potential for harm to these vulnerable groups within our communities.
So, what can be done to answer this difficult and pressing issue?
Safe Seniors provides an effective answer to these questions. It addresses the needs of these groups together, educating older children and senior citizens at the same time. The program will also create a system whereby these two groups check in with each other during emergencies to make sure the preparedness message has been considered and implemented. In cases where it has not, these two groups can support each other as well.
In the Safe Seniors program, older aged children, such as those in high school, will be educated on emergency preparedness. This would include what needs to be saved for later use and what needs to be done in an emergency. These children could be reached through service-learning programs in schools and through the many social and faith-based organizations that promote volunteerism in youths. Students that learn could then be prompted to spread the message of preparedness to family and friends.
A primary concern for the Safe Seniors program is how to get the message from one group, namely the younger people, to the other group, senior citizens. This would be done by pairing students and organizations with elderly groups, such as clubs, churches, and other organizations that have primarily elderly members. The older children and the elderly can form relationships with each other, especially if they live in the same community, and can not only prepare together and plan together, but check in on each other during emergency scenarios.
There are, in fact already organizations of young people that engage older people in relationships. These groups may not be teaching the elderly about emergency preparedness yet, but the foundation for the program is already out there. We just need to harness the energy of these groups and programs for another purpose. Emergency managers have been trying to find a way to get the message to each of these groups. Why not try to do it all at the same time?
Safe Seniors is not just about connecting students and older children to senior citizens. It is about building resilient communities with residents that can prepare together, take care of themselves and each other, and stand side by side surviving emergencies together.
This #CommunityEngagement #LocalGovSolution in Emergency Preparedness was created by the student team,
Nichole Horn, Jason Flake, Callie Brown
A round of applause!