By Johnny Jackson
Georgia Emergency Management Agency officials are attempting to tap into the creative minds of young people to get across a message that underscores the importance of being prepared for emergencies.
The agency, known as GEMA, is continuing its state-wide Ready Georgia Emergency Preparedness Campaign to educate, and empower, residents to prepare for emergencies. To help the effort, officials are rolling out the second annual creative art and essay contest, involving fifth-graders around the state.
"It's important for our kids to get involved," said Lisa Janak, spokeswoman for GEMA's Ready Georgia Campaign. "Getting kids involved often means getting their parents involved as well. It is a creative way to get them involved and prepared also."
Ready Georgia, which was launched in 2008, is implementing the art and essay contest, recognizing National Preparedness Month in September, said Janak, adding that the contest is designed to help students and their families prepare for the unexpected.
"Research indicates that people who are aware of Ready Georgia are 23 percent more likely to be prepared," she said. "Our latest research shows that 21 percent more Georgians are prepared for emergencies since we've launched the campaign [in January 2008]."
Janak noted that various disasters have occurred around this time of year, in years past. "This will be the one year anniversary of the flooding last September [in metro Atlanta] and the fifth-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina," she said. "But it could be anything that disrupts your life, or prevents you from coming home or leaving the house."
Ready Georgia's 2010 Art and Essay Contest, which incorporates the theme "Ready, Set, Go," encourages students to draw upon their personal experiences of how their families have prepared for an emergency, or how they plan to prepare, according to Janak.
She said students can produce original artwork that portrays one or more of the steps of emergency preparedness, or write an essay of 500 words or less, that describes the steps for emergency preparedness, and why it is important.
"When we launched this contest last year, the response was outstanding, and nearly 1,000 students across the state submitted entries," said Charley English, director of GEMA and the Office of Homeland Security, in a written statement.
"I had the privilege of reviewing the entries to select winners, and I was highly impressed with the creativity and skill that these kids displayed in their work," English said. "More importantly, though, I was gratified to see how much they knew about what it takes to be ready for emergencies. That's our ultimate goal, and it's clear that kids are getting the message."
Children and their parents can visit the Ready Georgia web site at www.ready.ga.gov to learn more about the three simple steps it takes to be ready -- create a Ready kit, develop a family communications plan and stay informed about potential local threats -- and use what they learn to create their entry.
Three judges will review the entries and select winners in October 2010. First-, second- and-third prizes will be awarded in each category.
Fifth-grade students and their parents can download and complete the entry form available at the Ready Georgia web site. Essay entries may be submitted via e-mail, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail. Original art work should be submitted by mail in an envelop measuring no larger than 11-by-13 inches.
Mail entries to: Ready Georgia Contest, c/o Cookerly Public Relations, 3500 Lenox Rd., Suite 510, Atlanta, Ga. 30326. All entries must be submitted, or postmarked, if sent by mail, by Sept. 30, the final day of National Preparedness Month.