Photo: Meryl Chertoff, wife of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, poses for a picture with Sesame Street favorite Grover at John Tyler Elementary School in Washington on Sept. 17, 2008. Defense Dept. photo by Samantha L. Quigley When Rosita, a Sesame Street Muppet, showed up at John Tyler Elementary School here today, she had a flashlight, batteries, a shiny new radio and a message for about two dozen of the school's pre-kindergarteners: "Be prepared."
"Do you know what an emergency is?" asked Rosita as the children nodded their heads. "Then you know that an emergency is when something happens that you didn't expect."
Rosita and another Sesame Street favorite, Grover, were on hand to help the Sesame Workshop and the Homeland Security Department launch a new joint program called "Let's Get Ready! Planning Together for Emergencies." The kit was created in collaboration with the department's "Ready Kids" campaign.
"This new initiative between Ready Kids and Sesame Workshop not only empowers parents to prepare for an emergency, but also helps children to feel stronger, more capable and more ready to deal with whatever life may bring their way," said Meryl Chertoff, wife of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "It's ... important that we, as parents and caregivers in the community, equip our next generation with the tools they need to be prepared for the unexpected."
And there aren't many better to help children between the ages of 2 and 5 understand the importance of preparing for an emergency than Rosita and Grover.
"These are friends they know and trust," Chertoff said. "We've all seen how important preparedness is in light of recent natural disasters around the country. Therefore, I hope you will share with your children and with children in your community the important information that this kit provides."
Chertoff was appearing on behalf of her husband, who was in Texas overseeing response to the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.
Disasters like Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina made clear the need to protect the nation's children in these types of situations, said Gary E. Knell, president and chief executive officer of Sesame Workshop.
"We know today that two-thirds of American families have no emergency plan at all," he said. "We also know that by remembering a very few important things, we can substantially improve the chances of protecting our nation's children from physical or psychological damage emanating from one of these disasters."
The "Let's Get Ready! Planning Together for Emergencies" kit builds on an episode of Sesame Street that dealt with Big Bird's nest being blown away in a hurricane and another that told kids it was OK to ask about Sept. 11.
"Through Grover and Rosita, our famous Muppets, we'll teach the basics for kids; memorizing your name, phone number and address in case you get lost, [and seeking] out a police officer or trusted adult in an emergency," Knell said.
The bilingual kit includes a DVD featuring songs by Rosita and Grover as well as activities to help children learn about getting ready for emergencies with their families. It also includes a children's activity book that has Grover and Sesame Street's Elmo teaching kids about important information they need to remember in an emergency.
While the kit is for kids, parents aren't left out. The kit provides them with a magazine that offers easy steps and resources the whole family can use to create an emergency plan.
About 150,000 of the kits will be distributed by Sesame Workshop's partners in the project, some of which include American Greetings, "Ready Kids" and the Ad Council. The materials also are available free on Sesame Workshop's Web site.
The Sesame Workshop kit was launched in September to coincide with the Homeland Security Department's "National Preparedness Month," which helps to raise awareness and promote action on emergency preparedness by Americans, businesses, and communities.
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