Over the past two decades, who has saved more lives in home fire?
You may be surprised to learn that more children have saved their parents than parents have saved children.
Nearly two generations ago, the National Fire Safety Council created the Stop, Drop and Roll program for kindergartners. The theory was simple: adult education on fire safety was failing miserably and home-fire related deaths were increasing each year. The Council decided to introduce fire safety to children, with the goal being that children would influence their parents and take the fire safety knowledge with them throughout their life.
The plan worked! Today, the majority of adults in their 30’s and 40’s, know exactly what to do in the event of a fire: crawl below the smoke; touch the door not the doorknob before opening a door during a fire; and, of course, Stop, Drop and Roll if your clothes catch fire. Now that deaths due to home fires have decreased, it’s time for everyone to face the next big problem: Zero Resiliency.
What is Zero Resiliency? It means that the majority of people today depend on the community or federal government to help them in the event of a natural disaster, even though every municipality, state and the federal government tells people to have an evacuation plan ready and the supplies needed to survive for 72 hours on their own before outside help arrives. Billions of dollars have been spent in an attempt to educate people about disaster planning, but few are taking action.
Think about it…If a natural disaster were to strike your location right now, this moment, are you prepared? Do you have your evacuation plan mapped out? Do you have a three-day supply of food and water available for each member of your family? Is your emergency backpack stocked and ready to go? For most people, the answer to each of these questions is “no.”
Unfortunately, having zero resiliency is a byproduct of our current economy. Many businesses have and promote a “just in time” mentality. Even marketers encourage consumers to adopt a “just in time” outlook. Few people these days buy a week’s worth of groceries anymore. Instead, they stop by the grocery store on their way home from work to purchase enough food for the evening meal and next morning’s breakfast. As such, few people are prepared to self-sustain in times of disaster.
Rinse, Lather, & Repeat: New Training for a New Era
Since educating adults about disaster preparedness is having the same non-reaction as the old fire safety messages that targeted adults, it’s time to shift our educational dollars to what we know works, which is to teach the youngest of Americans—the kindergarteners. That’s where Rinse, Lather and Repeat comes in.
Rinse, Lather, and Repeat is a new program that seeks to duplicate the successes of the National Fire Safety Council’s Stop, Drop, and Roll program. Like its predecessor, Rinse, Lather and Repeat is a one-week educational curriculum for kindergarten-age students that focuses on five core activities:
- Preparation and maintenance of a three-day survival pack.
- Knowledge of where to obtain reliable news and evacuation instructions.
- Memorizing local and out-of-state phone numbers for friends and family.
- The location of local shelters and local evacuation routes.
- The appropriate self-decontamination procedure whether at home or at a hospital or other community facility.
One of the core activities children will engage in during the Rinse, Lather, and Repeat program is the hands-on preparation of a three-day “Go-Pack.” The kit assembled by the children will include:
- Three days of clothing including underwear;
- Thee days of energy bars or shelf-stable packaged food items chosen by the child;
- Three days of water;
- One week’s toiletries, including toothbrush, hairbrush, toothpaste and toilet paper;
- A two-week medication case (without medications);
- A USB flash drive containing medical records and a document inventory device;
- One roll of quarters (for pay phones, which are self-powered);
- Photos of each family member;
- List of each family member with age and contact telephone numbers ( including cell phone);
- List of two local and two out-of-town family members or friends with addresses and phone numbers;
- Backpack to place all items within.
In addition to assembling the backpack, children will review and have a listing of local information sources such as: TV stations and the radio stations that broadcast TV stations when TV is not available, weather services, local access cable, local government EOC numbers and local print media. They will also memorize the four family and friends with their associated phone numbers, as well as practice the use of the various information channels that they chose.
Homework assignments that get the parents involved will include learning what television and radio stations to listen to for shelter information and in those communities with permanent shelters, mapping the location of the closest appropriate evacuation shelter for the family. In some communities this may be the family “safe room” be it an interior bathroom or basement. In other communities it may represent a Red Cross shelter or even a special-needs shelter established by local government or health department.
Finally, children will learn the crux of the Rinse, Lather, and Repeat program, which is how to wash hands and how to shower. These simple methods of hygiene teach the child how to decontaminate themselves and stop the spread of disease. Major contamination can occur in a number of ways, including raw sewage if their neighborhood or town floods, household chemicals like bleach or cleaning products accidentally splashed on them, an industrial accident or explosion in their community, or even a biological or chemical weapon scare. More common “contamination” occurs every flu season and with outbreaks of diseases such as SARS.
Unfortunately, health care workers still struggle with how to decontaminate a child. After all, we teach children never to talk to strangers or get naked in public, so you can’t expect them to disrobe in front of people in bio-suits and walk naked through a decontamination unit. However, every child can be taught how to take a proper shower, which is really the focus of decontamination. They will learn the proper way to Rinse, Lather (not just wander around in the bathtub as so many kids do), and then Repeat the process at least one time.
Therefore, the steps to and logic behind Rinse, Lather, and Repeat are as follows:
- Disrobe, thus removing 87% of most contaminants;
- Rinse their body thoroughly, rubbing all portions of their body with their hands to remove any contamination (now reducing contamination by 97 – 99%);
- Lather well, utilizing soap, shampoo or other decontamination supplies, to effectively wash every inch of their body. This means total-body washing and scrubbing every part of their body well with their hands;
- Repeat the rinse, fully removing all soap or other decontamination materials and Repeat the process if needed.
The Rinse, Lather and Repeat process can be taught utilizing comic books and/or coloring books with children in the classroom while fully dressed. In addition to providing the necessary skills to care for themselves in the event of a contamination accident, children will also learn to maintain good hygiene by learning a skill seldom taught by their parents: how to take an effective shower. This skill will also assist healthcare in the future by providing basic decontamination skills to children that they will carry into adulthood and pass on, just as the Stop, Drop & Roll program.
Rinse, Lather and Repeat week will culminate with the children taking their new three-day survival packs home to be placed proudly in a readily-available location. Now the child is ready and feels confident in the event that they must shelter in place or evacuate with the family.
Implement Rinse, Lather, and Repeat Today
Our goal is to have every school in the United States implement the Rinse, Lather and Repeat curriculum. As we have seen with recent disasters such as the four hurricanes that struck and re-struck the same areas in Florida, Hurricane Katrina, tornadoes, train accidents releasing chemicals, and so forth, we need a catalyst to change people’s perception of why they should be prepared. People need to understand and feel empowered that being prepared for a disaster gives them the confidence to handle emergency situations in a much more effective manner. Rinse, Lather and Repeat is our best defense to drive the message home. It can become the best opportunity to augment the level of disaster preparedness by increasing self-reliance and the individual resilience of each American citizen.