Empowering Youth to Prepare for Emergencies

By: Angela R. Wilson/American Red Cross of Alaska

As of late, our world has been altered to a place of uncertainty. We hear every day across the nation how the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has affected us all in an unprecedented way. Unfortunately, even though this frightening new virus has entered our lives, all the previous hardships continue.

On average, seven people die and 36 people suffer injuries as a result of home fires every day across the nation. More than $7 billion in property damage occurs every year due to home fires as well.

Home fires and other emergencies have not stopped because of COVID-19. However, together we ensure that families are better prepared for home fires and other disasters across Alaska if we pull together and ensure everyone has the home fire prevention and disaster preparedness information they need – including children.

The American Red Cross offers various opportunities for your children to learn or refresh themselves on home fire safety and disaster preparedness tips through fun and easy-to-use computer or mobile phone applications. If you have a four-legged family member, the Red Cross offers Pet First Aid tips as well.

Monster Guard App

Moster guard

  • The free Red Cross Monster Guard App provides games that can help save lives. Children between the ages of seven to 11 years old can learn ways to stay safe from home fires, earthquakes, floods and other disasters by role playing as different monster characters. You can go to redcross.org/monster-guard or text ‘MONSTER’ to 90999 for a direct link to download the app. The app provides an interactive and exciting way for children to learn, practice the lessons and share the information they learned with their family and friends. The best user experience is playing the game on a tablet, but it also works well on other mobile devices. Children should ask a parent or guardian for permission to download the app.

The Monster Guard App is a complement to The Pillowcase Project – a youth emergency preparedness program also developed by the Red Cross.

The Pillowcase Project

PIllowcase screenshot 2

  • The Red Cross Pillowcase Project is a free curriculum designed to increase children’s awareness and understanding of natural hazards and reduce their fears.  Eight to 11 year old children learn safety and emotional coping skills, along with personal preparedness skills. The program was originally created in New Orleans, inspired by university students who carried their belongings in pillowcases during evacuations for Hurricane Katrina.
  • In the class, students receive a pillowcase to decorate and use as a personal emergency supplies kit. Children are also encouraged to work with adult members of their households to create an emergency plan and supplies kit after they finish the class.
  • The curriculum is structured by a “Learn, Practice, Share” framework and all students who participate in The Pillowcase Project learn to prevent and stay safe in the event of a home fire and are encouraged to make a home fire escape plan and practice a home fire drill at home.

Prepare With Pedro

Prepare with Pedro

  • Prepare with Pedro is a 30 to 45-minute preparedness education program for Kindergarten through second grade students (ages four to eight). The program teaches students how to stay safe from home fires and features a story about a penguin named Pedro.
  • Students learn a coping skill and receive a storybook to share what they have learned with their family members.
  • The Prepare with Pedro curriculum was standardized based on existing Red Cross youth preparedness curricula, up-to-date scientific information, specialist-developed psychosocial coping skills, and proven youth education pedagogy.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all in-person The Pillowcase Project and Prepare with Pedro activities are on hold until further notice. If you are interested in learning more about the program or setting up a presentation as soon as it is safe to do so, please contact sarah.leonard@redcross.org or autumn.simons@redcross.org. During this time, you can also download storybooks in English and Spanish for your children to work on at home. 

Pet First Aid App

Pet first aid

The American Red Cross Pet First Aid App helps dog and cat owners provide emergency care until veterinary assistance is available. Owners also learn the healthy signs of a dog or cat so that they can recognize health problems early. With videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice it’s never been easier – for youth or adults – to learn and practice Pet First Aid.

  • In the app, you can learn first aid steps for over 25 common pet situations through a combination of text, video and images, in addition to identifying common toxic substances.
  • The app includes a programmable veterinary contact number, for easy use when needed.
  • Download the free app by searching for American Red Cross in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store for Android, or by visiting to redcross.org/apps.

Engage the entire family today through Red Cross youth preparedness programs and free mobile apps that provide instant access to expert advice on what to do before, during and after emergencies, including emergencies involving pets. These award-winning apps have saved lives, have provided millions of localized weather alerts and warnings, and have provided information on safe places for residents to turn to before, during and after severe weather in their area. If you have already downloaded the apps or taken part in our preparedness programming, now is the time to contact loved ones and pass tips and resources on to others who may need them during this time. For more information on all of the Red Cross of Alaska programs and services available in your area, visit redcross.org/Alaska.


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