In a story on the website, ednewscolorado.org, “From Terrorism To Tornadoes, Kids Learn To Be Prepared,” Rebecca Jones writes aboutÂ Disaster READY Training, a collaboration of READYColorado, the Governorâ€™s Office of Homeland Security and the City and County of Denver.
Last week, nearly 40 middle school students took part in the day long class in first aid, CPR, family and pet preparedness, weather spotting and team building — as well as terrorism awareness. An expanded four-day training will be offered July 20-23 to interested high school students at the Denver Police Academy. The training is free, though enrollment is limited. According to the article:
â€œThese are lifelong skills that weâ€™re empowering them with,â€ said Cathy Prudhomme, Community Preparedness Program Manager for the Governorâ€™s Office of Homeland Security. â€œThe first aid and the safety training is stuff they can use on a day-to-day basis.â€
â€œI think middle schoolers are wonderfully impressionable,â€ said Deborah Collburn, director of the Animal Emergency Management Program for the Colorado Veterinary Medical Foundation. Collburn was there to teach the youngsters how to prepare their pets in case their families were forced to evacuate from their home.Â â€œThey bring things home with them and share them with their parents. Reaching out to kids is a great way to change behaviors. Kids will nag you to death,â€ she said.
Some readers might be surprised that terrorism awareness is part of a middle school curriculum. But as the article explains:
Itâ€™s not like terrorists donâ€™t hang out in Aurora, Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Matt Packard reminded the young disaster-readiness trainees sprawled before him on mats on the gym floor at Aurora Quest K-8, a charter school.
After all, Najibullah Zazi was arrested last September at his Aurora apartment, not a dozen miles from the school. Zazi later acknowledged being an al-Qaeda operative conspiring to blow up the New York City subway system.
â€œIt was what he was doing right here in Aurora that tipped us off,â€ said Packard, who is supervisor in the Colorado Information Analysis Center, a state agency thatâ€™s a sort of early warning system for suspected terrorist attacks, natural disasters and large-scale criminal activity.
â€œHe bought chemicals you can mix together to make a bomb. He was acquiring stuff thatâ€™s perfectly legal to have, but he was combining them to make a bomb,â€ Packard told his young audience. â€œSay you see someone with 50 boxes of cold medicine. Does that seem normal?â€
The students agreed that it did not. Ditto for someone taking photos or drawing diagrams of buildings or infrastructure, or for uniformed workmen showing up without an appointment and asking for access to equipment, or for someone needlessly calling 911 then clocking how long it takes police to arrive.
â€œI learned terrorists could be anywhere,â€ 11-year-old Alex Richmond later said. â€œThey could even be my best friend.â€
â€œI saw a man wearing a winter coat once, when it wasnâ€™t winter,â€ noted 12-year-old Jose Puente. He said if he ever spotted anything suspicious like that again, heâ€™d know who to call.
As FEMA and DHS work on expanding the “See Something, Say Something” campaign, they should get some lessons from this program on communicating with Americans of all ages on terrorism.