Written by: Alvin Wang
At the beginning of this year, junior Divya Saini was nominated by the city’s director of Emergency Services and selected to serve on Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) first federal National Youth Preparedness Council. Saini is one of 13 teens across the nation serving on the board. She represents Region 9 of the United States, which includes California, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, Guam and American Samoa.
Saini spent $200 on launching an educational campaign to bring awareness to the community—especially to teens. A majority of this money was used during the Youth Community Service Day “Curbside Painting” event that she led where Saini instructed teens on how to react to an emergency situation. Afterwards, volunteers repainted the numbers outside houses in a number of local neighborhoods. This helps firefighters because when they come for an emergency, they need to be able to see the numbers very clearly.“The event was a huge success, with a huge turnout,” Saini said. “Another great success was Quakeville. We painted injuries on volunteers and practiced a role-playing rescue drill.”
Saini is looking for additional funding to launch a certification program, which will teach teens a step-by-step way they can prepare themselves, their families and their communities for a disaster. She visualizes giving a token incentive to teens willing to invest in fulfilling a set of preparedness criterion. In addition, important figures in the city will recognize and give certificates to teens as a reward for their contribution and help.
According to Saini, a majority of emergency preparedness is getting people to understand the true dangers that disasters can bring. “The Bay Area is one of the most earthquake-prone areas in the world, yet we still have the most people,” Saini said. “Palo Altans are grossly underprepared for a disaster.”
Emergency preparedness can be broken down into physical, social and emotional components. It also covers four topics: be informed, make a family plan, build and emergency kit and get involved in joint community action.
Saini’s role is to help teens become aware of the importance of investing in emergency preparedness. Saini feels that teens in particular do not prepare for disasters because they believe that emergencies will never happen to them, and she created the club to make teens aware and help them get prepared.
Most preparedness programs target adults whereas Saini is focusing on taking the message to teens. On goal is getting teens to realize that disasters can strike anywhere at anytime. “Emergency preparedness gives teens a lifelong skill which may help save lives and injuries,” Saini said. “Additionally, teens are influential in their households and can help gather the attention of adults on this topic.
Saini hopes that her involvement in the community will improve emergency situations for everyone. “Prepared teens are more confident and resilient in an actual situation than their counterparts,” Saini said. “Since children represent 25 percent of our population, getting them involved means ensuring a future generation of preparedness aware adults.”
Saini’s favorite part about preparing teens for emergencies is knowingthat she has made a posive impact on their lives. “The most rewarding part is the feeling that you are making a difference and people may benefit through the course of their lives,” Saini said.