Transcript of Get Ready Report Podcast, episode 38

This is the Get Ready Report, coming to you from Washington, D.C. In this episode, “June is National Safety Month,” we interview Alex Pasculle, National Youth Preparedness Council member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He is interviewed by Get Ready team member Lavanya Gupta.

Alex, thank you so much for joining us for this interview. To start off, can you please tell us about FEMA’s National Youth Preparedness Council and what your role is as a member?
FEMA's National Youth Preparedness Council was developed as a strategy to engage youth; you know, we want to engage youth today so that generations later can be prepared. And now we have a big part in the community and in the way adults respond. And my role as being a kid and involved in it is to report back to FEMA and to count the different behaviors and all that we do so it comes from my standpoint and I can be in the forefront to help kids act and help kids respond and all that, to ways the team is trying to outreach the youth and prepare for disasters.

So how can folks get involved in the National Youth Preparedness Council?
I encourage any kid to do what they can to get involved; to speak to their schools or teachers or parish or even youth ministers and tell them that they're interested and maybe try out for different classes. Or they can reach out to local fire departments and stations. Also, I know we have link on www.ready.gov/youth-preparedness, and that has different resources, contact information, and ways you can get prepared; so I would definitely encourage all kids who want to get involved to visit that website and talk to a technical assistant and reach out to them about how they can get involved in different ways because some communities that aren't as active in promoting preparedness and all that.
 
When we think about school and district emergency planning and response, the focus tends to be on what school officials can do to foster proper emergency planning an management for students and faculty. But how can students play a role in this?
Like I was saying, I would definitely encourage them to reach out to different responders and different agencies within the community such as the fire departments and all that, and definitely promote certain extra curricular activities that they can use for responding, whether it be a team certification program or whatever. I feel that if for a school district, it's really important for a kid to be involved and for the kid to kind of run it. And maybe a teacher or principal will kind of oversee what they're doing, but the kids should be the ones who are generally in charge in coming out with the different preparedness activities that communities can use. 

That's great. So how can schools, families and students use social media or other technology to prepare for emergencies or disasters? 
What I would suggest to students who are going to do that is follow different preparedness organizations, whether it be on Twitter or Instagram, and kind of share stuff that you find interesting, retweet it; if you see a good tip, retweet it; and also take pictures of what they're doing and post their tips and their thoughts on it. That's the way that FEMA, and I personally, look at other peoples' responses to different tips that people post. Because that kind of gives me an idea and an idea of where they stand and whether or not they agree or disagree, or how well they're taking the information. If they just want to look at what people are posting, or if they want to post what they're doing, they can take pictures of it and hashtag it; that's how they can get involved and be active in the preparedness role. 

So when we think about when as disaster has occurred or if we're in the midst of an emergency, we often hear that using text messaging or using social media platforms to communicate, because in certain situations we might find ourselves in a circumstances where landlines are down, or there is no electricity. Is that something that you encourage when you talk to your community or with your peers?
Yeah, I would encourage people to use stuff like that. I know a big thing is when there is a big emergency and landlines are down, sometimes phones don't work, or sometimes there might be such a big influx of people trying to use their phone, that they're not able to contact who they want to contact. So it is a positive rule to turn on emergency alerts for your phone, but when it comes to big emergencies like that, I would suggest maybe using the social media rather than making a phone call or calls that aren't necessary because that is a problem that people do see in big emergencies. 

Sure, that's great. For National Safety Month 2014, the National Safety Council is highlighting unintentional injury, which I believe is the fifth leading cause of death. So as a member of the FEMA National Youth Preparedness Council, what is your perspective on unintentional injuries and how they might impact students in particular in emergencies or disasters?
I'm not expert on this, but what I would say is that we try touching on all hazardous injuries and disasters and all that. And whether it is disease control, building a safety kit, even prevention of kidnapping and all that, we try taking a more proactive role and encourage kids and families to stay prepared. I know a big problem with unintentional injuries are a difference in time in warnings and a lot of people are unprepared it because you don't have that couple-day warning from the weather forecast and all that, which is what a lot of people are hoping for in an emergency. So, what we try to do is try taking a more proactive role in encouraging students to stay prepared in case it does happen and make everything easily accessible, like a preparedness kit, contact information, and all that. Also, different drills, so if something does happen, they are prepared and they are on the same level as a family and community.

Sure, I definitely agree. Having all of those things, including emergency contacts, and an emergency kit certainly makes confronting an emergency that particularly is unexpected, makes it a lot less complicated. So that's great. So Alex, I'm interested in learning: What was your journey as someone who is interested in emergency preparedness and how you got involved in the FEMA National Youth Preparedness Council and if you could also share an experience of emergency preparedness and how that came into play as a first responder?
I've always been interested in preparedness, and more so in the response end of it. The key to being a good responder is being good at being prepared. That kinds of came hand in hand with me, and I always saw the big part of keeping people prepared. I became an instructor when I was 16 and an EMT also. I applied I applied to come onto the National Preparedness Council for FEMA, and they got back to me, and I got accepted in. I got to work on different projects that they kind of let me take the lead in and talked to different people. I've always been really involved in preparedness and response. A personal experience that I had was actually a student in a region where there a stabbing had occurred. As an EMT, I had supplies in my car, so I was able to go to my car and grab those, and start helping some injured classmates of mind. As a team, being with teachers, firefighters, police officers, students, EMTs, emergency management and all that, we were able to work together and use the preparedness and emergency action plans that we had set in place, and it was very effective and it helped a lot of people out. I believe that a key part in every community is to have a good emergency action plan and for everyone to be informed of it and involved.

That's great. I think with the Get Ready campaign, we definitely emphasize that anyone in a community should be involved in having that action plan in place and being prepared, and it's great to see that at your age, you're so involved in your community and you have an active role in FEMA's Youth Preparedness Council. Keep up the great work; we really appreciate your work.
Thank you very much.

Thank you for tuning into this podcast. For information on APHA's Get Ready campaign, visit www.APHAGetReady.org

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Posted: June 20, 2014