Fourth- and fifth-grade students in the Monona Grove School District will join others around the state in participating in a program that teaches them how to be prepared for natural disasters and other emergencies.
Gov. Tony Evers visited Winnequah School on Friday, Jan. 17, to kick off the 2019-20 Student Tools for Emergency Planning (STEP) program.
“Disasters can happen to anyone of us at any time. Disasters don’t call or text before they strike. They happen with little to no warning, and not being ready is a disaster in itself,” MG Superintendent Dan Olson said. “STEP provides potentially lifesaving tools for students so they know what to do in an emergency.”
STEP is a turn-key classroom curriculum for teachers to prepare students for various emergencies and disasters, including blizzards, tornadoes, flooding, storms and fires. Administered by Wisconsin Emergency Management, the program also teaches students how to put together an emergency kit and develop an emergency plan.
“Students, you have to be prepared. An emergency is anything that can happen unexpectedly. With STEP, you will learn how to deal with those particular situations and also help develop a plan for your family to keep you safe,” said Darrell Williams, Wisconsin Emergency Management administrator. “There are many types of emergencies and disasters possible in Wisconsin, which is why a program like this is so important.”
Evers noted the students’ study of climate change and the importance of understanding it.
“Climate change is real. Some of the impacts of climate change are that we have goofy weather, lots more rain than we’ve ever had before, winds that we’ve never had before,” he said. “The chances of having a significant weather event, I think, are really strong, and this kind of prepares you for this. In some cases, it actually saves lives.”
Evers encouraged students to take advantage of the program and all that it offers.
“Work with your family. Make sure that they participate in the program,” he said. “Maybe some of your neighbors that you know may want to participate also.”
The 2019-20 program is funded in part by a $10,000 donation from AT&T, which has contributed nearly $100,000 to the program since 2012.
Teachers are provided with all materials at no cost to the schools, including instructor guides, DVDs and copies of student handouts.
“When an emergency shows up, and they’re going to show up … you guys can communicate with the ones you love, be it making a phone call or a text, of oftentimes more importantly, being able to contact the police or the ambulance or somebody to come give you help,” said Scott VanderSanden, AT&T Wisconsin state president. “Without the networks in place to do that, your phone doesn’t work, and that’s why we spend all the money on it.”
Students were given emergency kits with flashlights and a bracelet with the Ready Wisconsin website, https://readywisconsin.wi.gov, on it to view for more information about preparing for emergencies.
In Wisconsin this year, about 6,800 students and 135 schools will participate in the STEP program.
Wisconsin was the first state in the Midwest to teach the STEP program.