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Red Cross and Disney unite to promote Pillowcase Project to youth

Teaching youngsters how to quickly and efficiently prepare to evacuate a disaster situation is the goal of the American Red Cross' Pillow Case Project, which is currently gaining speed in Northeast Ohio.


When disaster strikes, in whatever form it might rear its ugly head, most people’s first thoughts of what they should do would rarely turn to their pillowcase. However, the American Red Cross is promoting that very idea to students across the United States.
The American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign aims to reduce deaths and injuries caused by home fires across the country by 25 percent in the next five years. Red Cross workers teach people about fire safety in neighborhoods at high risk for fires and install smoke alarms in some of these communities.
“This really all developed out of Hurricane Katrina when college students literally had to pack up all of their essential belongings and leave their dorm in a matter of minutes,” said Lara Kiefer, executive director of American Red Cross Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter. “They tore their pillows out of their pillowcases and stuffed whatever important items they needed into their pillowcases and took them with them. Those victims were in shelters for quite a long time, and they became bored, so they started to draw on their pillowcases as a kind of art therapy. Disney picked up on this idea, and they wanted to create a way for kids to learn ways they could better prepare for disasters.”
Teaching children how to be prepared for emergencies is an important part of the campaign. Red Cross workers are educating kids about fire safety through The Pillowcase Project, an educational program to teach children grade 3-5 how to make sure they are prepared for emergencies and help their loved ones get ready too.
Sponsored by Disney, The Pillowcase Project has already reached more than 180,000 young people across the country and plans to reach many more. The program emphasizes the importance of developing an emergency communications plan, fire evacuation plan and emergency contact cards.
Students learn about hazards, how to prepare for emergencies and how to cope. They practice what they have learned and share their knowledge with friends and family. The students receive a pillowcase and are encouraged to create their own emergency supply kits by packing essential items in a pillowcase that they can easily carry during an emergency.
“Holmes County has yet to pick up on this exciting trend, but hopefully area schools will open their doors to the Red Cross to come in, and they can take advantage of this opportunity,” Kiefer said. “This program has caught on like wildfire in Lorain County through schools and daycares, where they are doing two or three presentations every day.”
Not only is there The Pillowcase Project, the Red Cross has teamed up with Disney to create the mobile app Monster Guard, a game created by the Red Cross designed specifically for kids. The app compliments The Pillowcase Project youth preparedness initiative. It’s a game where children role-play as various monster characters and engage in interactive training episodes for hazards such as home fires, floods and hurricanes. Since the launch in October 2014, there have been more than 40,000 downloads.
Young app users direct the monsters to identify fire hazards, locate a safe room in a house, select items needed for an emergency supplies kit and more. If a player completes all of the episodes, he or she will graduate and become a member of the Monster Guard.
“Education is so much of what we do. We would much rather help prevent disasters instead of respond to them, so educating families is crucial. It’s about keeping people safe and teaching families to be prepared for anything,” Kiefer said. “The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. This program is another example of people stepping up and caring about the welfare of others. It’s a neat initiative that hopefully will grow a lot in the coming months and years. Whether disasters are natural or man-made, it is wonderful to see people react and respond in such caring ways.”

Published: February 13, 2018
New Article ID: 2018180209948