Boynton High Students Learn Hurricane Prep

hurricane-simuAs the saying goes, education is the first line of defense. And Boynton Beach Community High School students, have been given a real-life chance to experience an emergency simulation, so they can bring the lesson of preparedness and its importance home to their families.

Forty 10th, 11th and 12th grade students from the high school spent the morning at the Palm Beach County Office of Emergency Management participating in a special hurricane preparedness exercise called StormZone where they planned for and recovered from simulated category 3 Hurricane Nicole.

During the three-hour-mock exercise, students helped emergency officials plan a strategy to extinguish a fire in an evacuation center, and organize the rescue of senior citizens stranded after a bridge was washed out; while student reporters provided updates prior to Hurricane Nicole’s arrival and conducted a press conference concluding the exercise.

StormZone is a school-based educational program designed specifically for middle and high school students to teach science education and preparedness and give them a better understanding of the importance of advance preparation when confronted with a natural disaster, specifically a hurricane.  Since 2007, StormZone has educated over 400,000 students in south Florida.

Nicole Neuhengen, a Boynton Beach Community High School science teacher, expressed how this classroom experience also lets students learn about the importance of individual responsibility, organizational collaboration and project management skills when confronted with a disaster. “We want our students to become effective collaborators, and many of them were enlightened as to the critical decisions that emergency managers make during a natural disaster.” Neuhengen said. “It exposed them to potential careers in law enforcement, communications, meteorology and others”

To conduct the exercise, students form their own civic government by electing a mayor and appointing an emergency manager. The remaining students are designated to carry out specific emergency management functions such as housing and shelter, energy services, firefighting, law enforcement, health and medical care, food and water, transportation and communications that are critical to preparing for and recovering from a hurricane.

They then configure their classroom into an actual Emergency Operations Center and simulate a variety of problem-solving exercises that require the participation of all the “city’s” officials and the emergency management personnel. At the conclusion of the exercise, the student mayor conducts a press conference to inform student reporters on preparedness measures that were taken prior to the storm and recovery efforts after its passage.

“Through this interactive exercise, students learn about emergency management, make the decisions necessary to respond to a disaster in their community and develop a recovery plan,” said Bay Proby, StormZone director. “This classroom experience also lets students learn about the importance of individual responsibility, organizational collaboration and project management skills when confronted with a hurricane.”

Not only did students take away with them the experience of managing a natural disaster, they also brought a disaster-survival kit and family communication plan home to their families.

For more information about StormZone, visit www.stormzone.us.

For more information on Boynton Beach High School and its programs, contact Fred Barch at 561-656-6400 or via email fred.barch@palmbeachschools.org.