Forty students in grades 8 through 12 representing Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska completed FEMA Region 10’s inaugural Youth Preparedness Camp in Stanwood, Washingon last week.

The weeklong event, staffed by camp and emergency management professionals, taught the campers how to safely assist in the immediate aftermath of a disaster when a professional response may be delayed or limited. Subject matter experts and local emergency responders supported the curriculum delivery and introduced campers to various emergency response professions.

The students also participated in a variety of leadership and team-building opportunities and traditional camp activities – all while having fun and making new friends.

“Apathy is one of the biggest threats we face as a nation today, and these youth bring the empathy needed to turn that around,” said FEMA Region 10 Administrator Michael O’Hare. “Their enthusiasm for preparedness and the initiative they’ve shown to attend the camp and give back to their communities gives me a lot of hope.”

Selection to participate in the camp was competitive and based in part on concepts submitted by the students for projects aimed at improving preparedness in their communities.

During the camp students worked with subject matter experts and their peers to more fully develop their concepts. Project proposals delivered in front of their peers covered a broad spectrum of topics, including how to support people on the autistic spectrum through disasters, ensure earthquake preparedness on school buses, socialize readiness with Spanish-speaking communities, teach classmates basic skills, and support mental health.

The FEMA Region 10 Youth Preparedness Council, made up of 10 students in grades 8 to 12 from all four states, helped lead their peers throughout the week.

These youth learned that emergency preparedness can be fun, doesn’t have to cost a lot, involves friends, family and neighbors, and saves lives.

An aerial view of the Washington National Guard’s rescue helicopter. The Guard demonstrated a rescue mission for youth and then let them get up close and find out about the Guard’s mission of service.