Back in October 2017, I had the honor of participating in a trial of the Let’s Get Ready Project (LGR) disaster resilience game with students at the Dixon primary school in the Yarra Valley outside of Melbourne, Australia. The disaster education game was developed and delivered in Queensland, Australia by Jennie Schoof. Jennie moved to Melbourne and commenced work as the Emergency Management Project Coordinator for the Maroondah, Knox and Yarra Ranges Council Cluster Project. In this role, Jennie adapted the game to be used for the LGR project and to meet the needs of a Victorian (Australia) environment in partnership with emergency service agencies. Jennie and Andrew Williams, Emergency Management Coordinator for the Knox Council, worked with me to prepare this Field post.
The overarching objective of LGR is to engage with youth and schools in a broad exploration of resilience and to prepare today’s children and youth to become informed and resourceful adults. The disaster resilience game, a 3 x 3 meter interactive game, is best played outdoors on a school play yard or community green space. The game comes with all resources required for a facilitator to implement the scenarios: a game token, large game dice, team signs, game and scenario cards, a facilitator guide, score sheets, and game pieces (3D bushfire, cyclone/wind, volcano/landslide, earthquake, tsunami, and floods).
The inquiry-focused, immersive approach of the training game assists in planning for, responding to, and recovering from disasters and emergencies. The project challenges participants to think about what they need to know in order to prepare for and respond effectively to natural disasters and emergencies. It encourages teamwork, leadership skills, negotiation skills, exercise, excitement, and education. The hands-on and engaging immersive teaching methods for disaster resilience education as a fundamental life skill can easily be translated into children’s local environments. The interactive participant-focused activity urges investigation of effective methods for youth and their families to prepare for, cope with, and recover from natural disasters and emergencies.
With the game facilitated by youth leaders, I observed firsthand (while playing the role of a community member along with other local emergency service personnel), that the game was FUN! While the message was serious, it was set in play, a most effective way for children to learn and retain knowledge. It tapped into team building and collaboration, two skills vital for effective decision making in a disaster situation, while also enabling youth the opportunity to develop their leadership skills.
The goals of the LGR as stated in the Let’s Get Ready Project [LGR] Yarra Ranges – Knox – Maroondah Council Project: A Municipal Emergency Resource Program [MERP] Project Brief are:
- Empowering youth to become leaders in community safety/disaster preparedness with their peers, families, communities, and schools.
- Establishing partnerships with emergency service stakeholders that place a high priority on youth preparedness in the delivery of LGR.
- Encouraging collaboration among emergency service, schools, families, and communities to implement and endorse the LGR project.
The LGR project actively encourages youth and schools to become community safety ambassadors and to think about what they can do to promote the concept and value of community safety and disaster resilience through the project. While LGR was developed for children and youth, the message is invaluable and useful for adult organizations as a team building or community event.
While youth respond differently and have unique needs and vulnerabilities before, during, and after a disaster event, they can also play a very important role when it comes to being positive influencers in community safety and disaster resilience. They are uniquely able to advocate for and prepare themselves and their families, schools, and communities at large, to prepare for and deal with natural disasters. Four important points that Jennie makes in the project brief are that:
- Empowered youth can help engage their families, their peers, and their communities in disaster readiness. Youth involved in preparedness programs can effectively help, reach, and spread important messages about preparedness to their family members. Participating in emergency preparedness activities empowers youth and educates adults about preparedness.
- Youth can become leaders. Young people are empowered to become leaders at home and in their schools and communities.
- Youth are empowered through understanding of risks and knowing protective actions. Prepared youth are more confident during an actual emergency. The knowledge of what to do during an emergency empowers them to act with confidence and enables them to become active participants in emergency efforts.
- Today’s prepared youth are tomorrow’s prepared adults. Provided with education, youth can develop strong skills that they carry into adulthood.
The LGR taps into a wide reaching and inclusive network of emergency response services in the region to deliver the key messages of disaster preparedness and response. The impressive list of partners includes:
- Victorian Police Service
- Life Saving Victoria
- Country Fire Authority
- State Emergency Service
- Metropolitan Fire Brigade
- Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
- Save the Children
- Council youth teams from Maroondah, Knox, and Yarra Ranges
- Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority
- Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience – DRANZSEN State Committee
- Department of Training and Education SAP4 state committee
- Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
Natural disasters are not unique to Australia—recall the recent mega-wildfires in California, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria hitting in one year, and, as I finalize this piece, unprecedented snow right here in Northwest Florida. While disasters impact everyone in some capacity, how often do we put children’s needs front and center? According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 50 to 60 percent of those affected by a disaster are children (United Nations, 2012). This figure is only likely to increase in number and severity in the future as we face environmental and societal changes. I encourage you to think about how, as landscape architects, you can, through your design work and connections with community stakeholders, help children prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters and emergencies.
by Amy Wagenfeld, Affiliate ASLA, Jennie Schoof, and Andrew Williams
Jennie Schoof has been working in emergency management in both Queensland and Victoria for approximately ten years. In 2013 Jennie was awarded the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service Commissioners Commendation for the project ‘Don’t Let Thursday Island Burn.’ She was also awarded the Paul Harris International Award for tangible and significant assistance given for furtherance of a better understanding and friendly relations amongst people of the world for her work in disaster resilience education projects. Jennie can be reached at J.Schoof@yarraranges.vic.gov.au.
Andrew Williams, MEmergMgt (Distinct) CSU, GradDipInvest CSU, GradCertPubSectMgt Flin MIAEM, has a background in nursing and law enforcement, was awarded his Master in Emergency Management in 2015. He has served as the Emergency Management Coordinator with Knox City Council since January 2016. Andrew will commence his Doctorate in Public Safety in 2018 focusing on reducing domestic violence after an emergency/disaster. Andrew’s involvement with various youth organizations has made it easy for him to use and fully endorse the LGR project. Andrew can be reached at email@example.com.
Amy Wagenfeld, PhD, OTR/L, SCEM, FAOTA, Affiliate ASLA, is Co-Communications Director for the Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network (PPN).
Schoof, J. (2018). Let’s Get Ready Project [LGR] Yarra Ranges – Knox – Maroondah Council Project: A Municipal Emergency Resource Program [MERP] Project Brief.
United Nations. (2012). UNICEF and Child-Centred Disaster Risk Reduction.
All images provided by Jennie Schoof. Note: All children have signed photo releases.