Not a lot of teenagers, or even adults, are incredibly concerned with emergency preparedness, much less knowledgable about it at all. Vishnu Iyer, however, is trying to change that for his Indiana community in order to help make his classmates and neighbors as ready as possible for potential disasters and emergencies.
The fifteen-year-old is the first student from Indiana to join the FEMA Region V Youth Preparedness Council. Last year, for his project with the council, Vishnu created an Emergency Preparedness Club at his high school. Through his club, he teaches hands-only CPR and other important safety and emergency members to his classmates. He also teaches hands-only CPR to members of the community through the American Red Cross and is preparing to start teaching disaster mapping courses for them as well.
Describe your volunteer role with the Emergency Preparedness Club at your school.
I started the club last year at my school. I started it because it was my project for my FEMA Youth Preparedness Council. I joined the FEMA Youth Preparedness Council because I figured out there was no real emergency preparedness program in Indiana for youth, so I decided to create one at my school.
We usually have a meeting once or twice a year. This year I’m going to bring in Red Cross officials who teach hands-only CPR to all my club members. Last year, we had full one-day training that included fire safety, tornado safety, team organization, and 911 calls.
Can you describe what you do with the FEMA Youth Preparedness Council?
I joined the FEMA Youth Preparedness Council last year. It’s for high school students and we try to promote emergency preparedness for youth in our community. I’m the only student from Indiana on the council. Last year I decided to make my club and my club was part of my project. This year I’m working on mapping and my club again, and also teaching hands-only CPR.
Describe your volunteer role with the Red Cross.
I go to different meetings to teach hands-only CPR to the community. One of the meetings I did was at a local church event so I taught about 100 people how to do hands-only CPR, and then also recently I did a mall event that was very successful.
I’m also a part of the Red Cross Mapping Team where we do disaster mapping. That’s very recently that I just learned how to do mapping, and I’m also going to help a couple of Red Cross officials to teach classes to adults on Red Cross disaster mapping.
What is disaster mapping?
Why is emergency preparedness so important?
I feel like emergencies are one of the things most people think you can’t really be prepared for and it’s really random, but I wanted to [get involved] because they can happen at any time. I also read an article on monster hurricanes like Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma, and this affected a lot of people, so I decided to try to make an effort to help my community because there was no current program for youth.
What kind of feedback have you received from people involved in your club?
The people that came to my club last year said it was really cool and helpful. One of the things they really liked was the fire simulation we did and how to use a fire extinguisher. We used an electronic screen with fire on it and people really liked that. Also, I’m getting a lot of interest in my club this year because people are more inclined to do a shorter hands-only CPR session rather than the longer one that I did last year.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
My first hands-on CPR session is going to be in December or January. I haven’t figured out the date yet with my principal, but I’m really excited about that.
This year I’m going to apply for the FEMA National Team, which will be a much bigger project at a national scale. I really hope that doing all my projects will give me the experience to work on the National Team. It would be the same type of emergency preparedness project, but on a much bigger scale and I would also collaborate with people from across the nation.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
I think it’s really important because if you don’t give back to your community, you’re not helping other people and you’re not showing them the kindness that they gave to you. If you don’t help your community, the community will go in a negative place.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Vishnu? Find local volunteer opportunities.