U.S. schoolchildren in the 1950s learned to “duck and cover” from jaunty cartoon character Bert the Turtle in a famous civil-defense film on what to do in case of atomic attack.
Baby boomers now have an odd nostalgia for such Atomic Age drills. Years from now, what memories will be evoked in today’s children by Rex the mountain lion, the star of a new Web site that aims to help families and schools prepare them for emergencies, from terrorist attacks to weather calamities?
The Ready Kids site was unveiled last week by the Department of Homeland Security as part of its more comprehensive preparedness Web site, www.ready.gov.
Described as a “strong and confident mountain lion,” Rex, his wife, Purrcilla, and other characters are featured in online games and handouts that explain simple steps that families can take to prepare for all types of emergencies.
“We hope the Ready Kids [Web site] and in-school materials will help facilitate discussions about this important subject and encourage all families to get an emergency-supply kit, make a family emergency plan, and be informed about the different emergencies that can happen,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in announcing the program on Feb. 2.
The site, geared toward youngsters ages 8-12, also offers school activity sheets for grades 4-6. The materials have been mailed to 135,000 teachers in 25 major cities, according to the department.
The Department of Education and the National Association of School Psychologists, among other groups, were consulted in how to present emergency-preparedness information in understandable and appropriate ways to children.
Rex was created by the Advertising Council. The nonprofit group also dreamed up such notable public service characters as Smokey the Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog to communicate safety messages to children and families.