How new media for Disaster Risk Reduction Education can be used effectively as a tool for and generating

educational materials by children and youth, for children and youth
Justin Sharpe1 Abstract: Although a number of education projects have been carried out in areas of the world perceived to be at risk from natural hazards, those visiting countries as tourists are unaware what to do if faced by a hazard such as an earthquake or a tornado for instance. This paper outlines a project carried out with children from schools in the UK that enabled children and youth to become better prepared while also becoming advocates for Disaster Risk Reduction through the production of their own information films. The methodology of this ongoing project uses a number of new media techniques to engage children and youth in Education for Disaster Risk Reduction, which is both by and for youth. This approach illustrates that children and youth are important agents of change with regard to DRR because they are open to new ideas ands concepts and will often discuss these with their parents. It is argued that ‘learning conversations’ in the home also result in a positive impact on the ‘protective behaviour’ of the family and the wider community as a whole. Key Words: Education, MediaTechnologies. Disaster Risk Reduction, New

Introduction As cheap air travel increases and standards of living increase in the UK, the number of children travelling abroad also increases. In 2005 and 2006, there were 68 million visits made by Britons abroad, accounting for almost 10 per cent of worldwide travel 2. Children now visit countries where hazards they have learned about in the classroom are a reality. Additionally, a recent paper investigating the perception of risk at Versuvius by its local population, also pointed to the additional risks posed by tourists who are unaware or poorly prepared for a hazard event:
1 2

Disaster and Development Centre, University of Northumbria, UK Source: “Independent on Sunday” newspaper, 2006

Tourists pose another challenge to a community’s hazard education effort and emergency planning, since these short term visitors are unlikely to be familiar with the local hazards or be aware of the proper actions to take in the event of an eruption. Davis, Ricci & Mitchell, (2004) What this suggest is that tourists who are not prepared for a hazard event will put a further strain on the already over burdened emergency services if a hazard event occurs. This was illustrated recently by headlines in newspapers talking about the ‘plight of tourists’ seeking shelter from Hurricane Dean in Church halls and schools in Jamaica in August 2007. Risk Perception amongst tourists and visitors Research by Ronan and Johnston (2001 suggests that lack of knowledge and understanding coupled with a need for personal control, causes many of those at risk from hazards to develop the concept of “illusions of unique invulnerability”(Perloff and Felzer, 1986; Perloff, 1987). This in turn allows them to create a certain stereotype for the type of person likely to become a victim of a hazard event; and if they don’t fit that stereotype, the perceived risk to them is less. (Ronan & Johnston, 2001, p3). More importantly, they point out that that those with an ‘internal locus of control’ believe the situation they are in to be a consequence of their own actions, while those with an ‘external locus of control’ believe that: “External forces such as nature, luck or society have the dominant control over their situation.” (Ronan and Johnston, 2001, p3) This viewpoint will be magnified further when people go on holiday, because instead of living with the hazard risk over a lifetime or a number of years, they are facing it for only a short period of time and are less likely to take actions to modify their vulnerability to such hazards when on holiday or travelling abroad. Tourists and visitors from countries where natural hazards rarely occur, such as the UK, may not have even thought about risk in other countries and are unlikely to have taken actions to prepare themselves for a hurricane, tornado or earthquake for example. Children, however, have either not made up their mind, perceive their vulnerability more keenly, or due to their education, are more aware of the dangers posed by natural hazards when compared to their parents. Children as capacity builders

It is therefore important that children’s knowledge of disaster threats is investigated, so that appropriate education and involvement can take place. John Twigg, reported (2004) on the findings of a Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment by the Palestine Red Crescent which collected children’s drawings showing they were well aware of the threats facing the community; viewed disasters and their consequences as part of the broader environment, not as selfcontained events; and were full of ideas for preparedness. Twigg also makes the point those current and future projects: “need to build on such activities to involve children more fully in their broader mitigation and preparedness work at community level” (Twigg, J., 2004) Unfortunately, not many studies have been carried out in this area, as much of the work regarding theoretical perspectives and research in the area of hazard risk are adult-based (Ronan and Johnston, 2003; Lidstone, 2001). The project sought to address these issues by using the web-based materials and classroom teaching to educate students about the risk posed by natural hazards while encouraging them to develop their own capacities. Additionally participants were actively encouraged to share what they had learned so that others could benefit from their experiences and expertise. Careful consideration was given to how the material would be presented and what would be left out. In particular the website didn’t use disaster images on the advice pages, but pointed out in a simple format, what steps to take to mitigate for a hazard before during and after the event. The website was built in this way to illustrate correct behaviour rather than using disaster images that ‘heighten avoidance and denial’ (Lopes, 1992) The project was set up and implemented to follow up on, research by Ronan and Johnston and others which had shown that the more a child is educated about hazards and the risks associated with them, the higher the potential for this information to filter through to parents, increasing the parents’ knowledge and understanding of the risks, which may also lead to action being taken to mitigate for these risks. However it should also be noted that such learning conversations in the home may not occur and that child-centred education that not only imparts knowledge but illustrates capacity can be very effective: “it is important to include information that helps a child understand what he or she can do relatively independently to be prepared physically and emotionally.” (Ronan and Johnston, 2003, p 1011)

It is also essential to make the information accessible as well as useful and that the children have fun while they are learning. This is an important approach. As a proponent of earthquake education in Turkey Marla Petal has said: ‘Make your approach interactive and experiential - engage your audience, rather than preaching at it.’ (Petal, M, 2000) This also leads to a discussion of the hazards by children with their peers, teachers and parents. This is an integral part of the education process as it leads people to find out: ‘Can I do anything to reduce the risks?’ This would begin to address the goal of public education about geo-hazards – to ‘change people’s behaviour’ (Public Education for Earthquake Hazards, Sara Nathe et al, 1999). Context for the project Although the UK occasionally experiences adverse weather conditions, which can lead to flooding (e.g. in June and July 2007), there is not a perceived threat from natural hazards. Consequently when these hazards are taught about within the education system students enjoy learning about the hazards, but view them from the point of an observer of calamity, rather than being threatened by or at risk from these hazards. However as cheap air travel increases and standards of living increase in the UK, the number of children travelling abroad also increases – both for holidays and for visiting family. Children now visit countries where hazards that they have learned about in the classroom are a reality. However knowing what a hazard may do and reacting to the threat of it are two different concepts, requiring different thought processes and responses from children and parents. Therefore the project sought to respond to these changing demands and to attempt to educate students about how to prepare for and respond to a number of hazards. How the project works A website ( was created which used interactive navigation set out as labels on a suitcase, which pointed to different types of hazards they may experience. The idea was for children to explore the site and to discover how to protect themselves, whilst also learning about the nature of the hazard at the same time. The site was purposely made less obvious in terms of navigation, but there were visual clue and text on the index page to help with this. A user of the site would notice an interesting interface that is meant to be explored and clicked, but with the most important information such as how to survive a tornado taking up the main page space, while designed in a way so that people with screen resolution of 1024x768 do not have to scroll. This is more than just design – the relevant

information appears as a graphic file, so that it cannot be posted straight into a word document, meaning that students have to read, assimilate and then apply their knowledge. The delivery of the project has differed according to the teacher and the age ranges involved. Year 9 students (14 years of age) were taken through two or more of the hazards by a teacher and some of the instructions about how to respond were acted out in class where practical. Students were then given follow up work to carry out at home and then report back on their findings. Students were also told that they needed to prepare an emergency ‘go bag’, take a photograph and bring into school. As this was a complicated task, they were given up to six weeks to complete and were reminded to slowly make their kit up and to talk to their parents about this. After photographs were brought in and shared with classes, one class were given a project brief of making their own films showing what to do if an earthquake, tsunami, flash-flood etc occurred. This encouraged students to reflect upon what they had learned but also empowered them to be proactive in sharing this knowledge amongst their peers. At the same time this was an extremely useful way of evaluating the success of this project in a meaningful and very visual way. Students were given total control over what to shoot, edit and show, so that their understanding was clear to see. The films were also created in a variety of home languages so there is a guide to surviving a volcanic eruption in French, as well as surviving other hazards in Urdu, Turkish and English) The films that the students created were then uploaded onto a channel on the website: ( ) as well as being made available as a set of video podcasts: ( =260353245 ) This meant that students were able to view their own finished product while sharing it with their friends. It also means that other schools, teachers and students will be able to see a ‘finished product’ and learning outcomes can be judged from this, which is an important part of any educational activity for both teachers and students, as it is one by which they are both constantly judged. Implementation The first stage of implementation has been carried out, in terms of web-build, teaching with school groups in two different schools and in two different age ranges (a primary school in East London with nine year olds and a secondary school in north east London with 14 year

olds). It has been agreed with ISDR that they will be able to link to the site and it is hoped that this will increase traffic and therefore use of the site. Without any ‘marketing; the site has been linked to by educational and government based educational websites in the USA and Australia, where geo-hazards and responses are taught in more detail. The videos showing what to do in a variety of languages are an indicator of what needs to come next: the translation of the site into a number of languages, so as to maximise accessibility and usability and ultimately leading to a large number of children and their parents being prepared for and knowing what to do if a natural hazard occurs. It is envisaged that this could be ready within 6 months, but requires funding for the translation, and time to change the images with this information on. Results: In terms of communicating the dangers from natural hazards and reinforcing capacities to deal with them through simple acts of preparedness, the website and associated activities where children and youth showed their understanding of such capacities, the project was and still is successful. However at the moment this is only on a small scale with around 180 children in the 11-14 age group directly involved and 30 in the 8-9 year old age group having used the site to further their knowledge and understanding of risk and capacity. The overall results can be seen by looking at photographs of emergency ‘go-bags’ that children have made up either themselves or with the help of parents. This also indicates that home learning conversations were taking place, and I was contacted by at least three parents seeking confirmation about what their son or daughter was supposed to have in their pack, or asking for advice about where to get hold of an emergency blanket. The youtube channel also serves to show how students interpreted the information from the website and enabled them to think about how they were going to get this information over to other children, who may not be able to read the current English version of the site. It is also important to note that the easy accessibility of both the website and film channels for those with an internet connection illustrate what can be achieved with a limited budget. Challenges

There were relatively few challenges to this project. The main inputs were time, dedication and planning. Once the site had been built and then tested it was used with students who then gave me further ideas of how to improve it further. This is an important part of any web project and it is essential that students are allowed a free reign in terms of what they are expressing. I believe the next stage, where it is hoped that the site will be translated along with teaching materials and guidelines for use for educators is trickier as it will require greater financial resources as well as time. (Although these are not prohibitive in any way!) Lessons Learned The key lessons from this, is that small-scale projects created by educators can have enormous value, both to children and the wider community. It is important that there is a solid understanding of how children learn and are engaged by resources. The website interface helps with this because it is never too wordy, but pitched at a variety of levels of intellectual ability. The other important factor is that this resource is most useful if there is some facilitation by a teacher at least initially so that students are guided through one of the hazards with discussion or ‘duck and cover’ type demonstrations and enactments. This is particularly important as it appeals to different learning styles. Visual learners will be happy reading and assimilating the information, which may lead them to answer further questions while auditory learners will happily engage an listening and taking part in Q&A, while kinaesthetic learners will enjoy the role play and practicing elements of the teacher led activities. The initial ‘go-bag’ activities and subsequent homework activities carried out by students, has allowed me to review the advice about what to take on holiday as a ‘go-bag’. It is therefore important that five essentials, which are light and small can be taken. I have therefore decided to provide a blank rucksack with space for children to draw or stick in what five items they should take with them and why. This is because there was some resistance to the idea of so many items being needed, especially when going on holiday. Having a final ‘product’ in terms of a short film that can be used by others and perhaps save lives, was particularly inspiring to these students, who wanted to produce something worthwhile, and while the results may be mixed in terms of quality, the overall effect is reinforced when watching the films that students made. It is not necessarily

integral to the success of the project, but I would argue that it is key to evaluating what students had learned, while providing a marker for others to follow. The fact that the project is primarily web-based means that it is accessible to a large audience and easily replicable, however it needs support from key UN agencies and NGO’s to make it a success. The potential for this project is huge in terms engaging children and youth in the processes of Disaster Risk Reduction and letting them educate the next generation of children at risk from natural hazards. The Future Children and youth are important agents of change with regard to DRR because they are open to new ideas ands concepts and will often discuss these with their parents. These ‘learning conversations’ in the home may also result in a positive impact on the ‘protective behaviour’ of the family and the wider community as a whole. Consequently, educational materials online that have been developed specifically for helping children to realise both their vulnerabilities but also (and more importantly) their capacities, will enable them to reduce the former while increasing the latter. What is needed is research that tracks the effectiveness of such materials while examining whether there has been a change in ‘protective behaviour’ as a result. Ronan and Johnston (2001) make the point that hazard education programmes are ‘designed to explicitly help give the recipient an increased sense of personal control through the provision of relevant information (e.g. appropriate risk mitigation behaviours). Studies by Miletti & Fitzpatrick (1992) have shown that an educated individual will then search out their own information – which has a further positive impact on protective behaviours. Miletti and Fitzpatrick (1993) argued that this was less for children as they ‘rely on “information receiving” rather than on “information gathering”’. However the growth of internet use coupled with increased access to computers both in school and in the home, means that children are often the principal ‘information gatherers’. However, although successful in the short term at engaging children and allowing them to discover how they can prepare and protect themselves against natural hazard risk, programmes that follow up on this initial learning need to be put in place. Ronan and Johnston, have carried out research into how well children and youth respond to hazards education programmes, found that:

Recent programs involvement (i.e., during the past two years) along with multiple program involvement related significantly to both childand parent-reported adjustments. An implication here is that any initial program efficacy, including beneficial effects on hazard adjustments, may begin to diminish with time. (Ronan & Johnston, 2002) There is a strong argument, therefore, for a wider hazards education programme that is tailored to the needs of the community, and useful on a practical level. This should include a variety of media, including web-based materials that children and youth can interact with and continue to learn from. The obvious place to do this is within the education system and through the geography and citizenship curriculum in the United Kingdom. However this is not in place at the present time and would require a dramatic change in how hazards are perceived by the government and the Department for Children, Schools and Families, before projects such as this will have a greater impact and children and youth are prepared and aware of how to tackle natural hazards when they occur. In particular it is important that hazards and human responses are not just taught from the current perspective of ‘observers of calamity’, and that practical education for DRR is included in the curriculum in the UK, including First Aid training, which is currently not offered, but could easily be accommodated by the Citizenship/PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) curriculum. However the author recognises that this may take some time and that attaching it onto or making it part of an already crowded geography curriculum is not the answer. In the short term, therefore the government in the UK could put in place simple protective measures for their citizens travelling abroad, including children. One recommendation of this paper is that the information given through the UK foreign and commonwealth office website be updated to include a wide range of natural hazards. Currently there is only information about hurricanes and the advice is very limited, with no mention of emergency go bags or protective measures that could be taken other than listen to the radio or TV for advice. However this advice also needs to be made available for hazards that affect the population and communities living in the UK now. The recent interim review on the flooding that took place in the summer of 2007 highlighted shortcomings that led to such widespread impacts on a number of communities throughout the country. However, what was not mentioned or highlighted as a shortcoming was the lack of

knowledge and education about the possible effects of flooding and how all members of the community should have been prepared for such an event. The word ‘education’ was mentioned once in the entire document, but within the context of public education about flood insurance. Although this is a useful contribution to future preparation and mitigation, it is not necessarily the most practical and cost effective step for householders to take. The first chapters make note of the events and the impact on communities, highlighting the lack of preparedness regarding access to clean water. But it is clear that people did not stock pile water for drinking and for other uses before the floodwaters arrived, and it is not clear whether this message will be clear and accessible in the future. Furthermore, it was noted by Sir Michael Pitt, the reports author, that people should prepare in future by having emergency flood kits including a battery operated radio, mobile phone etc, but this is of limited use if adequate drinking water is not kept aside as well – something NOT highlighted by the report or put forward as one of the 72 Interim Conclusions. The message from the government needs to be clear and consistent and made accessible to every home, including children and the elderly – a ‘generic emergency kit’ may not be sufficient – different people have different needs – but the basics should be known by all. This can be achieved by communicating with those working within the field of Disaster Risk Reduction and Education and implementing their advice with regards to preparation, mitigation and planning. Many have worked in the field for may years both in the UK and abroad and have learned and written about what makes for good practice and knowledgeable about how to implement such practices within the United Kingdom. In the meantime, it is imperative that education projects that such as the one outlined here continue to engage children and youth in the processes of Disaster Risk Reduction while the participatory and creative approaches outlined will allow them to educate the next generation of children at risk from natural hazards. Within the context of the UK and elsewhere, it is important that hazards and human responses are not taught only from the perspective of ‘observers of calamity’, but that a community’s vulnerability is explored while practical education for DRR is included in the curriculum to enable capacity to be improved. Therefore, children and youth should learn about potential hazards and appropriate responses in their area as well as being prepared for

hazards in other countries. The edu4hazards site is a good launching point to examine and prepare for low frequency, high magnitude events such as large earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, before examining flood risk or landslide hazards in their own communities, using a variety of tools such as GIS, physical mapping and fieldwork. It is also important that children and youth continue to participate in the decision making processes within their communities so that they are more involved and become co-opted into the democratic process from an early age – a recent government initiative in the UK suggests that ‘Every child Matter’ - It is important that this goes beyond sloganeering and engages children and youth in the process of Disaster Risk Reduction. Conclusions It has long been argued that hazards needn’t become disasters and that it is human interaction and in some cases inaction within the environment that allows such disasters to develop. Education is key to reducing the impact of hazards on the community, while being both sustainable and cost effective. Children can be involved in problemsolving and planning for both urban and rural flood risk reduction, through careful land-use planning, community-based early warning systems, and contingency planning for livelihood asset protection. This education does not need to be didactic, but should be practical, useful and a focal point for rebuilding communities that have lost much in the floods of 2007 in the UK and in communities affected adversely and needlessly by hazards across the globe. For further information contact: E-Mail or Tel: +44 (0)7824 888404 Acknowledgements: The author would like to thank the students of Beal High School, Ilford and Jenny Hammond Primary School, Leyton for their continued support and enthusiasm for this project. References Davis, M.S., Ricci, T. & Mitchell, L. (2005). Perceptions of risk for volcanic hazards at Vesuvio and Etna, Italy. Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma

Studies, Volume 2005-1. Lidstone, J. (2001), “Citizenship in Cities on Volcanoes: Can Education Really Help?” Presentation at Cities on Volcanoes II, Auckland, New Zealand. Lopes, R. (1992). Public Perception of Disaster Preparedness Presentations Using Disaster Images. Washington D.C. The American Red Cross. Mileti, D.S. Fitzpatarick, C. and Farhar, B.C. (1992) Fostering public pre paredness for natural hazards: Lessons from the Parkfield earthquake prediction, Environment 34 (1992), pp. 16–20 (see also pp. 36–39). Mileti, D.S. and Fitzpatarick, C. (1993) The Great Earthquake Experiment : Risk Communication and public action. San Francisco: Westview
Nathe, S. Gori, P. Greene, M.Lemersal, E. Mileti, D (1999) Natural Hazards Informer (No.2) Public Education for Earthquake Hazards.

Perloff, L. S. (1987), Social comparison and illusions of invulnerability to negative life events, in C. R. Snyder and C. E. Ford (eds.), Coping with Negative Life Events: Clinical and Social Psychological Perspectives (Plenum, New York), pp. 217–242. Perloff, L. S. and Fetzer, B. K. (1986), Self-other judgements and perceived vulnerability to victimization, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 50, pp. 502–510. Petal. M October, (2000) Bogazici University, Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute, Disaster Preparedness Education Project (accessed via internet - 2006) Ronan, Kevin. R. & Johnston, David. M. (2001), School Children’s Risk Perceptions and Preparedness: A Hazards Education Survey in The Australian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies Ronan, Kevin. R. & Johnston, David. M. (2003), Hazards education for youth: A quasi-experimental investigation in Risk Analysis vol. 23, no5, pp. 1009-1020 [12 page(s) p 1011 Twigg, J (March 2004) Disaster Risk Reduction: Mitigation and Preparedness in Development and Emergency Programming. Humanitarian Practice Network Overseas Development Institute (ODI), London, UK

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