Last night I spoke as a representative of the Salvation Army to the members of the local First Lego League team: 9 - 14 year olds interested in science, technology, robotics and problem solving. Every year the league chooses a theme and the kids are challenged to design and build a robot that can solve a problem associated with that theme.
This years theme is "Nature's Fury." As part of their information gathering stage, they invited me, and a number of other representatives from agencies that respond during natural disasters - Fire Department, Sheriff and Police, County Emergency Management, the hospital, Red Cross, Air Guard etc...
The kids asked us question about how our agencies plan and prepare for and respond to natural disasters like floods and tornadoes and blizzards. (These three were in their focus because they are natural disasters that could occur in central Iowa. Hurricanes and Tsunamis don't happen very often round here...)
Many of their questions revolved around the issue of communication - especially communication to the general public: "How is a disaster announced? Who decides when to sound the warning siren? How long does it take to alert the public? "
Some of their questions were more generalized: "Do you have a disaster plan? Does the public have access to it? What's the biggest need after a disaster? How important is a home emergency plan? What do you know now that you wish you knew sooner?"
Some of their questions were much more ominous: "Who decides when the military /national guard gets involved? Can a person be forcibly removed from their home during a disaster? How do you find people (bodies) after a disaster?"
I'll be eager to hear from them what problem they'll try to solve, and to see the robot they design in action.