Edited Version of March 14, 2001 Transcript
EIIP Virtual Forum Special Event

Spring Break Student Day
American Red Cross and Project Impact Spring Break"

Jane Sibley
American Red Cross

Christy Brown
Federal Emergency Management Agency

Amy Sebring, Moderator
EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator

The original unedited transcript of the March 14, 2001 online Virtual Forum presentation is available on the EIIP Virtual Forum (http://www.emforum.org). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each were deleted but content of discussions, questions, and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers from the speakers to questions by the audience are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Amy Sebring: Welcome to the Third Annual Spring Break Student Day in the EIIP Virtual Classroom! In addition to it being the Spring Break time of year, it is also National American Red Cross Month and this year the Red Cross is co-sponsoring FEMA Project Impact Spring Break projects in communities across the country. We hope that students, educators, and practitioners will take this occasion to learn how young adults are contributing to mitigation efforts, and also to learn about the other opportunities that are provided through the Red Cross Youth Services program.

As a special treat, we will follow Q&A with an on-line exercise. This is not a disaster exercise, but just for fun with some "lateral thinking" puzzles. Lateral thinking is an indispensable skill for emergency managers!


I am pleased to introduce our special guest, Jane Sibley. Jane is the Associate, Program Development, Mitigation and Community Disaster Education at the American Red Cross national headquarters. In this position, she is responsible for providing Red Cross chapters throughout the U.S. with the developmental and technical assistance that they need to develop and implement viable Mitigation and Community Disaster Education initiatives.

Jane also serves as a liaison and coordinates ongoing projects and initiatives with staff representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other organizations. One of her projects with FEMA includes assisting chapters with their participation in Project Impact Spring Break.

Welcome Jane, and thank you for joining us today.


Jane Sibley: Hi! Thank you for having us here today to talk about Project Impact Spring Break. I say "us" because I have Christy Brown, the headquarters coordinator of Spring Break for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) beside me.

What is Project Impact Spring Break?

Started in 1998 as part of FEMA's Project Impact initiative, Spring Break is a nationwide effort that brings volunteers together in local Project Impact communities to engage in various disaster prevention and damage reduction service projects. We, at the Red Cross, are very excited to be invited by FEMA to be a formal co-sponsor of Spring Break this year.

Several Red Cross chapters have already participated in Spring Break as part of their involvement with their local Project Impact communities but this is the first year that we've promoted nationally. In addition, this will be the first year non-Project Impact communities will also be able to sponsor a Project Impact Spring Break through their local Red Cross chapter.

What does Project Impact Spring Break entail?

During their spring breaks, high school and college students work within their communities on specific projects ranging from distributing "how to" mitigation information in neighborhoods - to performing non-structural mitigation tasks for elderly citizens and residents of low-income housing - to installing earthquake-proof latches in cabinets. More examples of different projects can be found on the Spring Break Web site <http://www.fema.gov/impact/springbreak>. Also on the Web site are suggested timelines, planning checklists, and sample media releases.

Our chapters have found that Spring Break is an excellent means to recruit young people as Red Cross volunteers. It provides a volunteer opportunity with a finite time commitment and a tangible result. Spring Break can also help students fulfill the community service requirements that so many schools now have.

Project Spring Break isn't all work either! Oftentimes, the community service portion is alternated with activities such as white water rafting trips or evening barbecues, so that students still get to have fun during their break. Local businesses or civic groups who want to help make their community disaster resistant can be partnered with to provide the "fun" trips and meals in addition to other needed materials for the project. It's been a great way to involve "non-traditional" partners!

In addition, Spring Break projects often provide opportunities to build new friendships. Many Project Impact Spring Breaks focus on under-served communities such as low income senior citizens - the intergenerational relationships that blossom during Spring Break are truly heartwarming.

We're planning on providing recognition to communities that participate in Spring Break - there is a simple feedback form on the Web site that communities can submit so we know whom to celebrate. In addition, we're always receptive to feedback on information or materials communities need to make Spring Break a success - Christy and I are just an email away.

Before I turn the floor back to Amy, I'd like to ask Jennifer Wright in Seattle to talk a little about what they're planning to do.

Jennifer Wright: Hello, I am currently working on a Project Impact Spring Break event in Seattle. We are coordinating 30-50 volunteers to perform non-structural mitigation at Seattle Emergency Housing. On March 31st, we will be securing hot water heaters in order to minimize future earthquake damage. Concurrently, a Disaster Fair will be hosted at the neighboring Community Center. Information will be presented in ten languages servicing the residents of both Seattle Emergency Housing and Yesler Terrace, a subsidized housing complex.

Jane Sibley: That concludes our presentation. Please ask us lots of questions!

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Amy Sebring: Thank you, Jane. We now invite your questions and comments.


Chris Saeger: Thanks, Jennifer; are you a staff member of the Red Cross or a volunteer?

Jennifer Wright: I am in the National Rapid Response Corps, an AmeriCorps position at the ARC.


Avagene Moore: First of all, Jane, Christy and Jennifer - would you please share your email addresses with the audience so they can follow up if they wish?

Jane Sibley: <[email protected]>.

Jennifer Wright: <[email protected]>.

Christy Brown: <[email protected]> or <[email protected]>.


Avagene Moore: Second, do you have any idea how many communities are participating in Project Impact Spring Break?

Jane Sibley: I know of at least nine Red Cross chapters that have committed in places ranging from CA to OK to FL. In fact Miami is doing their Spring Break project today. I expect there are many more chapters that are planning a project though.

Christy Brown: We have had interest from several communities. I know of at least 6 more Project Impact communities that are definitely planning to participate.


Amy Sebring: Jane, Christy, and/or Jenni -- how far in advance should planning for a Spring Break event begin?

Jane Sibley: The longer lead time the better. It depends on the complexity now.

Jennifer Wright: I started planning in October of 2000, and I still feel like I have a lot to do!

Christy Brown: But it is not too late to start planning a small event for this year.

Jane Sibley: Even though it's called Spring Break - we are encouraging chapters to do it anytime.


Russell Coile: Jenni, how did you folks get the necessary materials and tools?

Jennifer Wright: We are receiving in-kind donations and the chapter is offering a lot of support as well.

Christy Brown: In the past, several local businesses and agencies donate tools, supplies, and training. The response has been great.


Amy Sebring: How do you find students? Is a university in your community, (if you have one) a good place to start? High schools?

Jennifer Wright: We've been targeting Seattle University due to its proximity to the event site.

Christy Brown: We sent letters to the colleges and universities in all Project Impact Communities, so they are a great place to start, but high school students are a great resource, too. A lot of them have community service requirements to meet.


Avagene Moore: How extensive has the promotion or publicity for Spring Break been? Have you worked with colleges and universities? And the association of emergency management students?

Jane Sibley: I've been promoting everywhere I've gone. Christy and I are also going to a campus community service conference this weekend.

Christy Brown: At the Project Impact Summit, we had a Spring Break Room to promote the whole concept.


Chris Saeger: Jenni and Jane, besides Spring Break what other things are youth and young adults doing in disaster services?

Jane Sibley: More information on the National Rapid Response Corps can be found at <http://acrossla.org/NRRC/americorps.html>. NRRC members provide community disaster education and also go out on local and national disaster assignments.

Jennifer Wright: In Seattle, we also have a very active program in the schools called Youth in Emergency Services.


Amy Sebring: Jenni, can you tell us a little more about that program? Who sponsors? Response from students? (Please also see the links to the Red Cross pages on their Youth Services program on today's background page.)

Jennifer Wright: Primarily NRRC members teach the classes; they are on a variety of topics, mainly safety and public health. They also involve community disaster education topics, as well as hand washing techniques, rescue breathing, etc.

Jane Sibley: Many chapters also have youth coordinators who work to involve students at all grade levels.


Russell Coile: Are there any legal (injury) issues here with volunteers using power tools?

Jennifer Wright: Yes, there are legal issues involved in the use of power tools, but I believe we have them resolved. We are holding a training session and only allowing the volunteers that receive this training to operate the tools.

Christy Brown: We are recommending that anyone who plans a Spring Break or similar project get volunteer insurance. It is fairly inexpensive and covers the whole year. It addresses injury and liability. This is another way to get partners involved. They can maybe pick up the cost. Jane has the link for a company that provides it.

Jane Sibley: Like Christy and Jenni said we are concerned about liability and work to ensure there is someone to train and supervise volunteers in the use of power tools. The link to the site is <http://www.cimaworld.com>.


Roger Fritzel: For Christy & Jane: Do you have 1-2 more examples of actual or suggested Spring Break projects? It appears they only last for one day.

Jane Sibley: In Oakland, CA volunteers installed cabinet latches and bolted bookcases in a low-income senior citizen housing complex. The project has actually been done several times over the past three years. Other examples include stream and storm drain clean-ups - this could take several days (if not longer!) if done throughout a subdivision.

Christy Brown: Spring Break is pretty flexible. It can be one day or a couple of weekends or a whole week. Whatever works for your community. In Pascagoula, MS, AmeriCorps volunteers installed hurricane shutters on elderly citizens' windows. They did this a couple of weekends, I believe. In Washington, students assessed the risk for wildfire in Walla Walla.


Amy Sebring: Christy, if funding for Project Impact is cut from the federal budget, do you expect this Spring Break project to continue in some form?

Jane Sibley: We plan to continue to encourage chapters to do a similar project with their community partners - even if it's just called Spring Break.

Christy Brown: Absolutely. It is very much driven at the local level. FEMA will continue to support the existing Project Impact communities as much as we can, but those communities who have participated in Project Impact have been ideally integrating it into their daily operations and way of approaching things.

Amy Sebring: Glad to hear that Jane. I think it is a great idea.


Isabel McCurdy: Christy, were there any new ideas that came about from the Project Impact Summit?

Christy Brown: If you are referring specifically to Spring Break, we did learn about one of the communities that schedules the white water rafting trips (donated by a local partner) after the volunteers have completed their work.

Jane Sibley: I also talked to someone from a beach community who said they were targeting students who came to their community as potential volunteers and also to provide them information about hazards that threaten that coastal community (e.g., what to do in an evacuation).

Christy Brown: In Oakland, they use earthquake wax to secure items. We didn't know about that before the Summit. It is really cool!


D. Seth Staker: How much of the spring break efforts are supervised by the Project Impact committees versus the local ARC Chapter?

Jane Sibley: We work very closely in coordination with the Project Impact communities in general. Ideally, the chapter is part of the PI structure. This is the first year we're encouraging non-PI chapters to participate - we'll see how that goes! I'm confident that it will go smoothly.


Avagene Moore: Ladies, I am impressed with the examples you have given of various Spring Break projects. The example of cleaning storm drains is a very good one - little if any cost involved. Are these shared with communities? If so, how and where?

Amy Sebring: Do you mean, are the results shared, Ava?

Avagene Moore: Yes. And what the communities did.

Christy Brown: Yes. We have several examples on the Website. Also, we have sent packets of info including examples that address all natural hazards to community leaders, PI coordinators, and colleges/universities.

Jane Sibley: We also sent letters to all the chapters in Project Impact communities with suggested projects.


Amy Sebring: That leads to my question, which is Jane, do you plan to do a post-event evaluation of some sort?

Jane Sibley: We're going to try - we've asked chapters to let us know what they're doing and I have a list of people to start calling in a few weeks.

Christy Brown: We will be recognizing everyone who participates (and lets us know about their event!) and there will be an award for youth group volunteer project at the Summit next fall.


Amy Sebring: To all of you, how important is it to get the media involved? How do you go about it?

Christy Brown: We think it is extremely important! And promoting your accomplishments is one of the things that help sustain momentum with mitigation. Press releases and ways to approach the media were included in the information packets we sent out.

Jane Sibley: The media is crucial in getting the word out. Red Cross chapters have public affairs people who can help us in Disaster Services work with the media and get the disaster mitigation/safety message out there.

Jennifer Wright: The PA department here at the Seattle ARC has been our best resource.

Amy Sebring: Great. I would expect that you would find the media receptive to "good news" stories about young people?

Jane Sibley: Exactly.

Christy Brown: Lots of media folks are partners, too, so they are very receptive.


Amy Sebring: Thank you very much for being with us today Jane, Christy and Jennifer, and our best wishes for this Spring Break and your future efforts. A special thanks to Chris Saeger for putting us in touch with you. Please stand by a moment while we take care of a couple of announcements. Ava, can you tell us what is coming up for next week, please?

Avagene Moore: Thanks, Amy. And thank you, Jane, for a most interesting and informative presentation. We appreciate Christy Brown and Jennifer Wright for their part in today's session as well.

Next week, Wednesday March 21, 12:00 Noon EST, the Virtual Library presents a paper that is creating quite a stir during this spring's tornado season. Mark Rose will be our special guest next week. He and three other gentlemen (John D. Gordon, Bobby Boyd, and Jason B. Wright) from the Nashville Weather Forecast Office researched and wrote a paper based on the outbreak of tornadoes that ravaged parts of Tennessee in April 1998.

The paper is "The Forgotten F5: The Lawrence County Supercell during the Middle Tennessee Tornado Outbreak of April 16, 1998." Why is this "the forgotten F-5"?

Join us next week for the answer to that question. That's all for now, Amy.

Amy Sebring: Thanks, Ava. We will go onto our fun and games next but first, audience, please help us thank our guests for being with us today.

[Whereupon the guests were duly thanked and a game of lateral thinking puzzle solving ensued.]

Amy Sebring: If you enjoyed these lateral thinking puzzles, you can find several more at <http://rinkworks.com/brainfood/latreal.shtml> including the classic one about the elevator which is puzzle #1.

Thank you all for joining us today. Good luck to all students no matter what age!