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Sesame Street Apps Help Kids Deal With Disaster

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When disaster strikes, turn to Elmo.

With the help of the little red monster and his Sesame Street neighbors, the PSEG foundation and Sesame Workshop have launched an emergency preparedness initiative aimed at making kids comfortable and knowledgeable in what are often times frightening emergency situations.

"Emergency preparedness is not typically thought of for early childhood education," said Jeanette Betancourt, Senior VP of Community and Family Engagement at Sesame Workshop. "But when we start these planning moments and learning this critical information early on, it becomes part of children's resiliency to growing up kinder, smarter, and stronger. It really is valuable to start early not only as a child, but as an entire family."

The initiative includes two mobile apps. 'Let's Get Ready' teaches children what they need to know in case of an emergency—the names of their parents, their address, and what to put in an emergency kit. The other app, Here for Each Other, focuses on how parents can talk to their children about emergency situations and answer questions that may come up and be difficult to address in the midst of chaos.

The idea for emergency preparedness education targeted at pre-school aged children grew out of what Betancourt calls a strong need for families and children to be prepared when disaster strikes.

"A lot of research we have considered indicates that most families are not prepared. In fact, there's a study indicating that 60 percent of families don't have an emergency plan." she said.

A partnership between a non-profit organization known for educational children's programs and an energy company may seem like an unlikely match, but PSEG (the Public Service Enterprise Group) president and chief operating officer, Ralph LaRossa, says that partnering with an organization like Sesame Workshop is a natural extension of PSEG values—recognizing the importance of first responders, valuing the dissemination of safe and reliable information, and educating people on how to be prepared in unexpected situations.

"Utility folks will keep the lights on, we'll keep the house warm, but it's really all about communicating with children and their families and that's what Sesame Street means for us." LaRossa said.

The Let's Get Ready and Here for Each Other resources are available for free online in both English and Spanish.

—Tracy Jarrett

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