In March 2023, SINTEF and the Trondheim Red Cross, partners in the ENGAGE project, organized a visit for a class of the Trondheim International School (This). About twenty children in 6th year, ages 11 or 12, came with their teacher to the Red Cross building for the morning. The visit consisted of short presentations to the class, followed by a tour of the facility and presentation of some of the Red Cross equipment used in emergency operations.
Three main topics were discussed with the students:
1) Disaster management, addressed through describing the disaster management cycle and the formal and informal actors involved, as well as making links to the UN Sustainable Development Goals for the children to discuss.
2) The Red Cross Movement, its history, its operations, and the roll of volunteers;
3) The ENGAGE project, the importance of the general public in disaster management and a few examples of solutions considered in the project- with a focus on preparedness solutions which target education and the involvement of youth.
The children showed great interest in the topics presented, raised numerous questions, and actively participated in discussions around the topics that ENGAGE addresses- such as the importance for members of the population to be prepared, the value of volunteerism, and the usefulness and challenges of the direct involvement of citizens in disasters. Of course, the visit of the Red Cross ambulances and other emergency vehicles also generated great excitement.
Part of the ambition around hosting such a visit was to get a sense of the interest of younger members of the population for such topics and understand whether this can be a sensitive discussion at their age- for instance, whether it might generate undesirable anxiety. During informal conversations with several students, it was clear that they were very eager to hear about disasters (as well as risks in their local area), and that this did not generate particular fears (some even mentioned feeling reassured). After the visit, the teacher organized a reflection with the class, in part through some questions provided by ENGAGE researchers. The following are some quotes taken from the students’ answers:
«I enjoyed learning more about disasters and going down to see the ambulances»
«I learned the disaster cycle. From mitigation to preparation to the disaster to response and recovery. I also enjoyed looking at the ambulances and communicating with the Red Cross.»
«After the visit I felt more confident in my knowledge in natural disasters»
«After the visit I feel reassured by what was discussed»
«After the visit I felt safer by knowing that the Red Cross will help»
«I didn’t feel so worried after the visit, but I felt more experienced with the disasters and how you survive them.»
«I went home and discussed about everything that we needed just in case»
«I would consider volunteering at the Red Cross in the future»
«When I would get older I would like to volunteer for the Red Cross because I can learn allot of new things and it looked very fun to do»
Although carefully prepared, these efforts (visit, questionnaire) were mostly informal. The quotes from the students, however, strongly suggest that such visits and awareness events are very valuable in different ways including: providing information about disaster management (including information about actors like the Red Cross) and preparedness (reaching a larger population through their families and promoting volunteerism). Discussions are ongoing with the school to make such a visit a regular event during the school year.
Author: Matthieu Branlat (SINTEF)
Pictures provided by the Trondheim International School
Image 1: Matthieu Branlat (SINTEF) discusses the Disaster Management Cycle with the class
Image 2: Marita Hoel Fossen (Trondheim Red Cross) shows footage of a recent training exercise.
Image 3: Students discuss the Norwegian self-preparedness kit