National Preparedness Month Programming Ideas

September is National Preparedness Month, and while you may think your tweens and teens are prepared based on their years of drills and learning from school, you’d be surprised by how much is forgotten when an actual emergency happens. Additionally, have you trained your staff and team members on what needs to happen if an emergency happens at the library? What happens if there’s a hurricane? A flood? A blizzard? A gunman? A biological attack? We think that we know what to do, and we think that we’d be clear and cool-headed during any and all emergencies, but it’s only through repeated training and exposure to simulated situations that we can truly know what to do. Whether you’re looking for ideas for your patrons or for your library staff, we’ve pulled together a variety of resources for you to use to educate and inform.


We are teen librarians and specialists, not emergency specialists, and we know our limitations. This is a time, especially when you want to know how to do things in a certain situation, to bring in the specialists. Look around your community to see what experts are out there, and what situations are appropriate for your area. Do you get hurricanes? Tornadoes? Blizzards? Extreme heat? Lightning? Are you situated within a massive tourist area (think about sports stadiums, historical sites, recreational parks, etc.)? What ecological hazards are around your area? Are there massive highways?  Is there a railroad? Airport traffic? Hospitals? Things like these and others are things to consider when looking for training ideas and presenters.

  • FEMA: The Federal Emergency Management Agency has locations throughout the states, with staff members who are willing and able to come out and perform training on a variety of topics. Additionally, they have a collection of free publications to educate the public that you can have available and use in programs.
  • Red Cross: The Red Cross Volunteers are among the first on the scene of a disaster, organizing survivors and helping to ease the way. When I was in Texas, we worked closely with them because my library was a designated overflow shelter for a number of hurricanes that went through Louisiana and Texas. Local Red Cross locations will train employees, and most will train teens as well.
  • City Emergency Management: The larger cities that I’ve worked with have had their own emergency management departments, and have had employees who have been trained to go out and work with both the public and city staff on what to do in an emergency. They can usually train at different levels, depending on what you want and need from them, so take a look at the experts you have on hand.
  • City First Responders: We’re used to bringing in the Fire and Police Department for story time and show and tell, yet have you brought them in for a full assessment of your library? Ask your local police department for a threat assessment.  Ask them to present their findings during your next staff meeting, and what to do if the most likely situations happen. Other police officers I’ve worked with have been excited to show up in plain clothes to train teens and staff in self-defense, and have been trained to be as self-effacing and non-threatening as possible. Additionally, have your fire department come out and do an assessment of your library for fire, smoke, and other hazards. They may also have ideas for presenting to teens that you may not have thought of.


  • Zombie Response Team: If you can find them, and if they accept the mission, getting a Zombie Response Team is an awesome way to end a week or a month of programming.  Some chapters are more responsive than others, so your mileage may vary.
  • Health Providers: If you can get a local doctor or nurse to present without asking for tie-ins with their practice, they could be worthwhile in detailing first-aid, wound care, and other issues.  Consider hosting official CPR, AED, and first-aid training, as well.
  • Meteorologists: Local weather specialists and news anchors would be ideal for detailing the changes in weather, identification of serious weather, and what needs to be done in the different situations.


  • Scavenger Hunts: Pull together scavenger hunt clues leading teens to books and other resources throughout the library that would be useful to have in case of various emergencies, such as first aid manuals and plant guides for poisonous and non-poisonous plants.
  • Crafts:
  • Movies (as always please either secure a viewing licence or make sure that your umbrella license covers your movie)
    • The Hunger Games series (mentioning the whitewashing of the main character): survival and how the world GOT that way
    • The Divergent series: survival and how the world GOT that way
    • Cast Away: survival
    • Shaun of the Dead: spread of disease
    • The Martian (definitely talk about the whitewashing of the film vs the book): survival
    • Life of Pi: survival
    • Day After Tomorrow: natural disaster
    • Armageddon: asteroids
    • San Andreas: natural disasters
    • Sharknado series: natural disasters with comic relief
    • Twister: tornadoes and science of tracking
    • Contagion: spread of disease
    • World War Z: spread of disease

Do you have ideas for National Preparedness Month? Share them with us!

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