APHA's 2011 Get Ready Scholarship: Excerpts from winning essays

Six students — at the high school, undergraduate and graduate college levels — were chosen from hundreds ofapplicants as the winners of APHA's 2011 Get Ready Scholarship. Below are excerpts from the winning essays.

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• Katherine Double: Bear Creek High School, Lakewood, Colo. (high school level)

Education is key to preparedness

My community has been exposed to disasters, both serious and mild, and has also been involved in relief efforts for larger scale incidents, such as Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Southeast Asia tsunami. After knowing many victims of disasters and helping to fund relief efforts, I have come to realize that proactive rather than reactive actions would save lives and minimize damage. Education is the best weapon for proactive efforts.

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• Amy Miller: Yukon High School, Yukon, Okla. (high school level)

Showing children and adults how to prepare

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” If people do not know what to do in the case of a flood, which foods they need to stockpile, or where to go during a tornado, then it is impossible for them to be prepared. My Get Ready Day event would be devoted to educating children and adults about how to be best prepared for an emergency or a disaster.

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• Alex Ghenis: University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, Calif. (undergraduate level)

Earthquake prepardness: A need on campus

There is a word that strikes fear in the heart of every UC Berkeley student, yet most choose to ignore it or shove its inevitable occurrence to the back of their minds. That word is “earthquake,” or any number of its substitutes: “tremor,” “rupture,” “the Hayward fault,” or “that thing that's going to tear the football stadium in half.” What many Berkeley students know, but we have collectively not yet addressed, is that UC Berkeley is situated in arguably the most dangerous geographic area of United States. The Hayward fault, a strike-slip behemoth prone to 7.0 magnitude quakes every century and a half, runs directly adjacent to campus and is set to rupture surprisingly soon, likely within the next 20 years. However, the campus response plan is insufficient to deal with a large-scale earthquake and the major problems it would pose staff and students.

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•  Katelyn Somers: University of Maryland, College Park, Md. (undergraduate level)

Emergency preparedness critical for universities

The shootings at Virginia Tech have emphasized the importance of a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan at any university. Since then, vast improvements have been made in emergency preparedness plans across the country. Universities are now much more prepared for events such as acts of violence, natural disasters, and pandemic flu. As a university encompassing 40,000 students and faculty members, it is imperative for the University of Maryland at College Park to have an efficient emergency preparedness plan.

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• Alana Massey: Yale University, New Haven, Conn. (graduate level)

Social media in disasters has both benefits and shortcomings

Relief campaigns promoted in social media (after the Haiti earthquake) generated 3 million dollars worth of critical relief donations by text messaging alone in the first 48 hours, and that impact should not be underestimated. But the example of Haiti does bring to light two significant shortcomings of social media as a tool of emergency preparedness as it exists today: the infrequency with which social media users and vulnerable disaster victims fall into the same category and the low usage rates of critical emergency preparedness sites in social media even by connected users. I contend that though social media is well-equipped to generate relief donations and post-disaster awareness, it is not prepared to successfully transmit emergency preparedness information to potential victims until it becomes more widely accessible to those in greatest need.

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• Leanne Piña: University of Texas, Houston, Texas (graduate level)

Social media in Haiti’s disaster response can be used as a model for emergency preparedness

Social media (after the Haiti earthquake) empowered victims by giving them a voice. It allowed them to communicate with both each other and relief workers, but only in competition with thousands of others. When needs went unanswered, frustrations arose. With so many sources posting information, it was sometimes difficult for users to sift through the unorganized information and distinguish what was credible from what wasn’t. These same pros and cons can be applied in disaster preparedness situations. Thankfully, preparedness organizations can effectively minimize shortcomings by approaching them proactively, making social media a great means of preparedness communication.

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