"Friends, neighbors, and emergency workers are your neighborhood helpers. Show your child that these trusted adults are people he can go to for help in an emergency."
The above tip is one step in creating an emergency plan that is communicated as part of Let's Get Ready, an initiative to help families in China prepare for emergencies together. Designed by Sesame Workshop and project partners including the telecommunications company Qualcomm, it uses a 3G mobile website, a mobile application, and videos and other entertaining yet educational content that is designed to create an interactive and engaging learning experience for children ages 3-6 and their caregivers. With the China Youth Development Foundation advising on content and China Telecom hosting the application, Let's Get Ready emphasises the importance of knowing your full name and address, having an emergency plan, packing an emergency kit, and learning about people and places within the community that can help in an emergency. This project is an extension of the emergency preparedness kits that Sesame Workshop distributed to 120,000 children in 15 Chinese provinces in 2012.
Let's Get Ready draws on Sesame Street muppet characters like Elmo and Grover to connect with children - and, more importantly, to provide tools to help families prepare for emergencies - to people in previously difficult to reach areas of China. It includes a 3G mobile website, optimised for mobile platforms and accessible to all 3G-enabled smartphones, that includes:
- A "chalkboard" that allows children to practice writing their names and addresses, dial their home phone numbers, and draw pictures of their homes or family meeting places.
- A scavenger hunt that reminds children of the items that go into an emergency kit and the people and places that may be helpful in an emergency.
- Sesame Street videos on emergency preparedness.
A native application (an application programme that has been developed for use on a particular platform or device) for Android-based smartphones was created to provide families with a more personalised experience through features that include:
- A photo scavenger hunt for taking pictures of items that go into an emergency kit and the actual people and places that may be helpful in an emergency.
- A photo quiz that assesses children's knowledge of emergency preparation.
- An alarm function for scheduling an emergency drill.
The 3G-enabled content is available for free download throughout China.
Click here to access an online toolkit with downloads and videos for parents. Click here to view a video from the project with English subtitles. (The video below is a general Sesame Street video that focuses on emergency preparedness.)
Children, Risk Management
According to the International Database, US [United States] Census Bureau, there are 108.2 million children under the age of 7 in China. Sesame Workshop says that limited resources exist to help their families prepare for potential emergencies, and safety awareness in rural areas is low, particularly in underdeveloped areas. Current safety curricula feature abstract rules rather than practical skills. The Guizhou region is prone to geological and natural disasters such as landslides and floods and, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, every dollar spent on preparing for natural disasters could save 7 dollars in humanitarian disaster response.
In early 2013, a 4-week pilot study was implemented in Guizhou Province to evaluate the project's effectiveness. Thirty-one families with children ages 3-6 each received a 3G Snapdragon™ enabled smartphone pre-loaded with the mobile tools, wireless connectivity, a data plan, orientation to the technology, and access to an HTML 5 website. The research team conducted one-on-one interviews with a parent from each of the 31 families. Of participants who responded:
- Most (defined as 80-96% of the respondents) of the parents interviewed expressed their enthusiasm for the Let's Get Ready! project, saying that their involvement heightened their awareness of the importance of emergency preparedness.
- Parents said the programme showed a new educational approach to a topic and expressed appreciation for specific activities around emergency preparedness, such as putting together an emergency kit as a family and remembering full names and telephone numbers.
- One parent described his child's learning of the programme content, stating: "He especially likes the emergency bag activity. Now he knows that he can look for the teacher, the doctor, and the policeman when he encounters an emergency. He can also call Mom and Dad."
- Parents liked the mobility of the programme, which enabled them to interact with their children in many locations other than the home, such as bus stops, relatives' homes, school, and the police station.
- Most parents would recommend the programme to other parents. In fact, during the study period, about one-quarter of them spontaneously recommended the "Let's Get Ready!" programme to parents of their child's classmates, relatives, friends, and colleagues. They offered the links and demonstrated how to download the programme in some cases. A few parents also brought back positive feedback from those indirect participants.
January 2014 update:
- "Let's Get Ready!" distributed materials on emergency response and preparedness to over 120,000 children in 15 provinces. The content was made available on mobile devices, and researchers found that it had a positive effect: 68% of families who used the mobile content had taken action (i.e., assembled an emergency kit) in preparing for an emergency.
Sesame Workshop, Qualcomm Wireless Reach™, China Telecom Corporation Limited, Guizhou Branch, and China Youth Development Foundation.
"Let's Get Ready! How Partnerships Enable us to Effect Change Around the World", by Anita Stewart, July 1 2013; "Sesame Workshop and Qualcomm Provide Emergency Preparedness Content for Young Children and Their Families in China", June 27 2013; and email from June Lee to The Communication Initiative on December 17 2013. Image credit: © 2013 Sesame Workshop. "Sesame Street" ® and associated characters, trademarks, and design elements are owned and licensed by Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved.