smSTEPfreedomThe Student Tools for Emergency Planning (STEP) program is available to fourth and fifth-grade students at no cost to educators.

MADISON, Wis. — Disasters can be difficult for kids to deal with, which is why ReadyWisconsin is encouraging families to take the time to make sure their youngest members know how to respond when the unexpected happens. September is Preparedness Month in Wisconsin, which is a reminder to everyone that disaster don’t wait, so make your plan today.

“Children may not fully understand what’s going on during a disaster or what steps they should be taking to remain safe,” said Dr. Darrell L. Williams, Wisconsin Emergency Management administrator. “During Preparedness Month, we encourage families to spend time going over emergency plans with kids and making sure they understand what to do.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought much uncertainty for families across Wisconsin, while the start of the school year has resulted in changes to the regular routines of many. Regardless of where they are spending their days, parents should talk to their children about what to do if there is an emergency at home, school, or daycare. Make sure they know who to contact and identify a safe meeting place. Put together a supply kit with your kids and include them in the process of creating an emergency plan for your family.

“Preparedness is a life-long effort, and even adults should spend time this month learning more about what they can do to help keep them and their loved ones safe,” Williams said. “Taking just a few minutes out of your day to discuss the types of disasters that could effect your community and how to react could make all the difference when facing an emergency.”

While many students started the year virtually due to COVID-19, educators looking ahead to the spring should consider helping their students prepare for disasters by offering the Student Tools for Emergency Planning (STEP) program. Designed for fourth and fifth-grade classrooms, this curriculum developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is made available by the state at no cost to educators. The program teaches important preparedness lessons to children and encourages them to take that information home.

“Since it began in 2011, STEP has helped over 80,000 children in Wisconsin learn about the importance of being prepared for the unexpected,” said Dr. Williams. “We are proud and excited to once again make this free program available to classrooms across the state.”

Fourth and fifth-grade teachers and school administrators interested in offering the STEP program in their schools or to virtual classrooms during the spring of 2021 can find more information online at https://readywisconsin.wi.gov/step/.

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