CSTA Classroom Science

Communities in California Need Your Help! Introducing the New Preparedness Ambassadors Fourth Grade Preparedness Program

California is one of the most diverse states when it comes to our population, terrain, natural resources, and weather. That also means we have some of the most diverse types of natural hazard threats including wildfires, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, and yes, even volcanoes. These natural hazards can pose ongoing threats in our communities and significantly impact our lives when disaster strikes. 

To help make our communities safer, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) is asking teachers and fourth grade students throughout California to help by becoming a Preparedness Ambassador. Preparedness Ambassadors is a statewide program designed to engage fourth grade students to develop and promote disaster preparedness guidelines for their homes, schools, and local communities.  

Historical Context
For many communities, 2017 through 2021 were devastating years. Many students were affected by disasters that caused damage and/or loss of their homes and schools. Some survived with physical injury and/or mental trauma, and some lost loved ones. 
The brief timeline below will give you a glimpse of what students have experienced these past few years:

  • 2017: After six years of unprecedented drought conditions, California experienced record rainfalls resulting in widespread flooding and the evacuation of over 188,000 people due to failure of the Oroville Dam emergency spillway. Later that year, the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County caused widespread destruction of entire neighborhoods and many schools were destroyed or damaged. 
  • 2018: Wildfires in California killed over 120 people, destroyed more than 22,700 structures, and burned over 1.8 million acres. California's deadliest wildfire, the Camp Fire in Butte County, nearly leveled the town of Paradise, killing 86 people. This fire also destroyed eight of the nine schools in the area.
  • 2019: A 6.4 magnitude foreshock and 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck near Ridgecrest—the most powerful earthquake in California in nearly 20 years. Several schools throughout the region were damaged.
  • 2020: Six of the 20 largest wildfires in California history occurred destroying over 2.6 million acres. We also began experiencing the largest public health crisis since the Spanish flu of 1918 due to the international outbreak of the COVID-19. This public health emergency strained all facets of life to include economic growth, healthcare services, and education.
  • 2021: We’re still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Dixie fire in Northern California is the second largest wildfire in state history. The recent Caldor Fire in El Dorado and surrounding counties caused the temporary evacuation of many communities including South Lake Tahoe. It also appears that California is in the beginning of another drought period which could increase the risk of wildfires for years to come.

About the Program
The past five years described above paint a gloomy picture of the reality that we live in and that students must endure. It also showcases the need for greater community awareness on how to be better prepared. This is why the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), in partnership with the California Department of Education, CalRecycle, and the Sacramento County Office of Education have created a program to give students an opportunity to help their communities: Preparedness Ambassadors – A Disaster Preparedness Program for California’s Fourth Graders. 

Through an inquiry based instructional process, students will learn about various disasters in their communities by gathering and using data, reading case studies about actual disaster events, and reflecting on which behaviors may help contribute to staying safe during a disaster. Students will develop their own disaster preparedness guidelines and then compare them with the disaster preparedness guidelines identified in the Cal OES Family Readiness Guide.

Students will promote these guidelines by completing the Cal OES Family Readiness Guide with their families and promoting disaster preparedness within their communities. Case studies of actual disaster events included in the program include: 

  • Wildfire: The Camp Fire in Paradise
  • Flood: 2017 Winter Storm Flooding
  • Earthquake: Ridgecrest Earthquake
  • Tsunami: Japan Tsunami of 2011
  • Volcano: Mount St. Helens Volcanic Eruption
  • Tornado: Tornado Strikes Moore, OK
  • Power Outage: High Winds and the 2019 Public Safety Power Shutoffs 

The instructional sequence of the curriculum follows the 5E instructional model of engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate. The curriculum is designed to focus on the CA Health content area of Injury Prevention and Safety for fourth grade students and emphasizes the standard of Health Promotion. The program also integrates grade appropriate CA English and Language Arts and CA Next Generation Science Standards including connections to the Environmental Principles & Concepts.

Make a Difference in Your Community - Become a Preparedness Ambassador
In becoming a Preparedness Ambassador, students will take a journey into the disaster experiences of their community. Like a detective, they will gather community disaster stories and be strategic in mapping where, when, and how they occurred. Like a scientist, they will dig deep into case studies and find out how people reacted to specific disasters. Like a safety manager, they will create guidelines that inform the community how to better prepare for disasters. And like a hero, they will take action to prepare your home, school, and community for the next disaster. By being a disaster detective, scientist, safety manager, and hero, students can be a Preparedness Ambassador for their entire community.

Program Resources
The following resources are available on the Preparedness Ambassadors web page.

  • Teacher Guide provides the step-by-step instructional format for the curriculum. 
  • Student Notebook is designed to develop students’ knowledge on hazards within their communities and ways in which they can be prepared. 
  • Family Readiness Guide compliments the Preparedness Ambassador curriculum and covers important aspects relating to disaster preparedness.  It is our goal that the Family Readiness Guide reaches each family unit and household in California.  This guide has been translated into six additional languages to include Spanish, Korean, simplified and traditional Chinese, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
  • Promotional Materials – Stickers, magnets, bookmarks, and cinch backpacks so students can assemble their own preparedness kit. There is no registration required for this program. Just reach out to the program representative about requesting materials for your classes. 

In the end, the Preparedness Ambassadors Program is action- and community-oriented, encourages civic engagement, safety, empathy, and responsibility. What better way to help your community’s level of preparedness in a positive way? Your school’s participation in this program may help save a life someday.

For more information on the Preparedness Ambassadors program, visit www.caloes.ca.gov/preparednessambassadors

Lynne Olson, Program Manager
California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services 

Nick Murray, Senior Emergency Services Coordinator
California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services 

Jonathan Rhodea, Curriculum Specialist
Sacramento County Office of Education



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