An e-response to disaster

Teens build Web site, house to teach preparedness

Education Beat


A gray whirling tornado inches past a brown rectangular house, surrounded by a white picket fence. Then the house is engulfed in flames while the image of an American flag waves in the corner of the screen.

Pictures of Westminster sights come into view on the screen, with the words, "When in need, the community comes together!"

Filled with cartoon graphics, photos, and lists of emergency supplies, the Ready React Respond Community Connection Web site was set up to teach residents how to prepare for a natural disaster or a terror threat.

Instructor Marla Wood, along with five students at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center, created the Web site with the help of a two-year, $50,000 Youth Ready to Respond grant from the Points of Light Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit group that advocates community service.

The grant was administered by Volunteer Carroll, a local group that collaborates with Carroll County public schools.

Estelle Sanzenbacher, coordinator of youth development for county schools, said the grant is awarded to only 10 volunteer organizations throughout the United States.

"It's very competitive to apply for the grant," Sanzenbacher said.

William Hill, 60, career coordinator at the technology center, said Volunteer Carroll and the Points of Light Foundation wanted to "come up with creative projects that students can be involved in and to connect students to the community."

The Web site lists specific instructions that need to be followed before, during and after a disaster, such as a tornado or an earthquake. The site also offers topics that can link viewers to related Web sites, as well as to lists of proper procedures and supplies that are needed.

"They were looking for ways to educate others about the general safety in our community," Sanzenbacher said.

In order to construct the Web site and design the illustrations and photos, students used the latest version of Macromedia software.

"A lot of the students' time and dedication" was put into this project, Hill said. The students also received service learning hours that can go toward their required 75 hours for graduation.

"It's given our students a nice opportunity to experience something different," Sanzenbacher said.

Technology students plan to build a model of a safe house this school year. The 16-foot-by-8-foot structure will be revealed at a preparedness fair planned in the county next spring. This structure will resemble a model home that allows people to look through the windows and "see what a room that is prepared looks like," Sanzenbacher said.

The center plans to include students from as many classes as possible in the construction of this safe house.

The research and building of the house will begin right away. In turn, students will try to find effective ways to teach the community about disaster preparedness.

Sanzenbacher said the students had a feeling of accomplishment when they saw they were helping the community.

Not only were the students learning, but they realized that their work "is real and out there, and people are going to use it ... they felt that this was something that was needed for the community," he said.

The Ready React Respond Community Connection Web site can be found at: www.reachout

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