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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Family festival invites community to learn about emergency preparedness

What does Smokey Bear, happy children playing games and information on emergency supply kits have in common?  They were all part of this year’s Tucson Parks and Recreation Department Family Festival in the Park.  In late November, I represented the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA) at this event. Public resource information booths, sweet carnival treats and musical performances drew in crowds from the Tucson area. The well-attended, community-based event provided a platform to share information with the public regarding emergency preparedness.

DEMA joined the Department of Forestry and Fire Management (DFFM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) at this festival to promote awareness of forest fires, home fires, and emergency readiness. Community members from diverse backgrounds—parents, grandparents, city employees, veterans and retirees—asked important questions regarding emergency planning for homes, work, and community centers. At the DEMA booth, visitors received emergency preparedness bags, brochures that included emergency tips, and a recommended supplies list for an emergency kit. 

Children of all ages approached the DEMA booth and curiously asked for information. Wide-eyed and with a big smile, a small child asked, “Can I learn about preparedness too?” I enthusiastically responded, “Of course you can!” and sent him off with an emergency preparedness pack. Other children rushed to the DEMA booth to grab brochures and then filled their parents’ already busy hands with more information than they could carry. Parents also found the information important to their households, as one of the festival attendees described how he prepares his home and vehicles for snow storms and cold weather. He also shared with me his emergency checklist and the importance of being emergency ready anytime, anywhere. Connecting with people of all backgrounds at outreach events truly allows me to see the importance of DEMA’s role in educating and sharing resources and information with all communities. 

It became clear to me that emergency kits could not compete with Smokey Bear’s popularity, as children rushed towards Smokey as soon as he arrived on the scene. Children, with smiles from ear-to-ear, gravitated towards Smokey, gave him hugs, and followed his every move. Even adults pulled out their cell phones to take a quick selfie with the lovable and furry forest fire awareness bear. Aside from greeting attendees, Smokey Bear also guided families to the DFFM booth where they could answer fire prevention trivia questions in exchange for prizes. DFFM representatives shared fire prevention tips, such as not parking where vegetation touches the underside of your vehicle as this can start fires. When driving, safety chains or other trailer equipment should be positioned correctly to avoid dragging. Dragging can cause sparks that create fires. To learn more about fire prevention tips, visit the AzEIN Wildfire information page. 

Participating in outreach events like the Family Festival in the Park is an important way for DEMA to connect with Arizona’s communities and to spread information that can prepare families in case of a disaster. Sharing empowering tips and encouraging others to inspire their community to take emergency readiness steps can be fun, especially if you have a furry friend like Smokey Bear by your side.  

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