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We Are Public Health, February 2015.

We Are Public Health 2015-02

This story features the work of Idaho Southwest District Health.

We are public health.
We empower youth with emergency preparedness skills.

In the rural and frontier counties of Idaho, emergency first responders are challenged by limited staff and resources, sparse populations, and long travel distances to reach those in need. Even an event of modest size can quickly overwhelm response teams.

To overcome these barriers, Idaho Southwest District Health has taken a unique approach to community preparedness. In July 2014, the district’s Medical Reserve Corps launched Idaho Ready Kamp, an innovative program which empowers youth—a traditionally vulnerable population during emergencies—with the same practical skills employed by their much older public health counterparts.

“Youth are highly effective messengers able to reach and influence parents and older adults. They can play a very important role in helping their communities become safer and more resilient before, during and after a disaster or emergency event,” said Idaho Southwest District Health Preparedness Program Coordinator, Doug Doney.

The inaugural Ready Kamp drew 24 seventh and eighth grade students from Adams, Gem, Payette, and Canyon counties. Held over four days and three nights at a local high school, the program blended traditional summer camp activities such as movie nights, campfires, and field trips with hands-on emergency preparedness training. Ready Kamp was also provided at no charge to participants, allowing youth who could not have otherwise afforded a camp experience to attend.

“The kids received a breadth and depth of training in areas such as search and rescue, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first aid, hazardous materials, fire-fighting, and water safety and training,” said Health Liaison and Medical Reserve Corps Coordinator, Jeff Cappe. The training modules were presented by local first responders and experienced Medical Reserve Corps volunteers using the FEMA Teen Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) curriculum.

On the final day of camp, kids participated in a mock disaster exercise where they were challenged to apply what they learned during camp to a realistic scenario. The mock disaster scenario—a tractor driver hauling pesticides experiences a heart attack and crashes into a school bus carrying students—allowed each participant to fill the role of an emergency responder. The exercise involved triaging, decontaminating, and treating wounds. Moulage kits were even used to simulate life-like injuries on the mock "victims,” which were played by local Job Corps students.

“It was exciting to see youth rise to the occasion during the mock disaster exercise,” said Doney. “Our ultimate goal is for kids to impart the knowledge gained from Ready Kamp on their community and serve as ambassadors for citizen preparedness.”

By the end of the camp, every participant was both CPR and CERT certified. The camp concluded with a graduation ceremony and awards dinner to celebrate the accomplishments of the campers with their families.

Idaho Southwest District Health plans to hold Ready Kamp again in the summer of 2015 with General Brad Richy, Director of the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security, serving as the keynote speaker at the graduation dinner.

As they prepare to host a second cohort of kids, staff at Idaho Southwest District Health are already seeing the fruits of their labor from last year’s efforts. “Five Ready Kamp alumni are returning this year to serve as camp counselors, and two alumni are working to build a similar program within their own schools,” said Doney.