A criminal justice class at Arkansas Tech Career Center helped open Yeltson Parada’s eyes to the importance of emergency preparedness.
So when he heard about Arkansas Tech University’s 2019 Youth Preparedness Camp, the Danville High School student was excited to register.
“In our county, we offer volunteer firefighting and I wanted to see if I could get some experience before I try to join that,” said Parada.
He was one of 19 students in grades 9-12 who participated June 25-27 in the second annual ATU Youth Preparedness Camp, which is under the auspices of the ATU Department of Emergency Management.
Camp participants learned about topics such as fire suppression, disaster preparedness, terrorism, search and rescue and disaster medical operations.
“The goal is to make an impact on our communities,” said Bethany Swindell, visiting instructor of emergency management at ATU and director of the ATU Youth Preparedness Camp. “We’re doing it through a grass roots effort with the young people. They’re coming here and learning these vital skills. Hopefully, they’ll take them back and teach their parents or their friends so that our communities will become more resilient.”
Campers also participated in a National Weather Service Skywarn severe weather spotting class, viewed a demonstration of how unmanned aerial vehicles assist in emergency response and participated in a community service activity at River Valley Food 4 Kids.
Swindell explained that not every student attending the camp has a goal of entering the workforce in an emergency management capacity.
“We have people in there who want to be journalists or veterinarians, but honestly, if you think about it, at the core of all these professions are people who want to help,” said Swindell. “They want to better their communities, make a difference in the world and impact other people. Really, that’s what we’re doing here…enabling them with the skills and tools to be able to do that.”
Swindell cited the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, representatives from Federal Emergency Management Agency Region VI, Russellville Fire Department, Tim Tanner from St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and Justin Drittler from the Pope County Office of Emergency Management as some of the agencies and individuals who contributed to the camp curriculum and observed the programs.
Donated first aid supplies from Rose Drug and a $500 scholarship from the Arkansas Food Bank helped the 19 attendees become ambassadors for the cause of emergency preparedness.
“Preparedness is all about making sure that you are good to go and not forced to rely on other people,” said Swindell. “I would challenge people to think about something like a house fire or a car accident…who would you call? Identify who that person is and be able to think a little bit about what if.”