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Fred the Preparedness Dog—Tails from Kansas

Posted on by Michael McNulty, Director of Homeland Security Operations, Kansas Department of Health and Environment

Fred witnesses the governor of Kansas signing a proclamation naming September "National Preparedness Month"

It all started when Fred jumped into the bathtub.

It was one of those warm, Kansas summer days, back in 2013. Fred the German Shepherd had just joined our family, and my wife eagerly captured all his adorable dog-moments with her camera. So when Fred hopped into the tub, she quickly snapped a photo and sent it to me.

Having worked in emergency preparedness for ten years, I saw something more in that picture: Fred was doing a good job of being prepared.

The bathtub is where my family shelters when there are weather warnings in our area. I posted Fred’s photo on social media at work and added a caption: “Fred knows where to go in case of severe weather. You should too.”

Continuing the theme, we had the idea to put a child’s backpack on Fred. We filled the backpack with basic supplies every family needs in an emergency. The next photo went up online: “Even Fred has an emergency kit!”

It skyrocketed from there. What began as a series of photos of Fred turned into a full-blown preparedness campaign for children ages 6-12 all across the state.

Lessons from a dog

Fred in bathtub
Fred knows where to take shelter in case of severe weather.

It turns out Fred has a lot to teach kids about preparedness, and he’s perfect for the job. Kids are always curious about Fred and relate to him in a special way.

Together, Fred and I travel to schools and events across Kansas, teaching kids how to keep themselves and their families safe. Fred now has his own purple hiking bag, which he wears everywhere, because you never know when an emergency might happen. When we go to schools, kids help unpack the kit and see what’s inside. As they take out the items, we talk about each one. We talk about the flashlight, the maps, the contact numbers, the hand wipes, the first-aid kit.

“We can just put a Band-Aid on Fred, right?” I ask the kids.

“No!” they yell back.

I take out a compress and wrap Fred’s head, demonstrating the importance of knowing about different kinds of first aid and how and when to use them.

I also show them Fred’s teeth. We talk about how strong he is and how hard he can bite. We show kids how to approach Fred safely and avoid animal bites.

We talk about making sure family pets are accounted for in an emergency plan. During Hurricane Katrina, we saw that many people will not leave home without their pets, even when their own lives are in danger. We encourage kids and their families to find hotels ahead of time where pets can stay too, or to find a kennel nearby that can be used in case of emergency.

At the end of each school visit, as the children clap, Fred barks his appreciation in return.

Fred gets the message out  

Fred keeps a busy schedule these days. Last month, we met the governor of Kansas as September was officially declared Preparedness Month for the state. As part of National Preparedness Month, we have plans to attend the 10th Annual Emergency Services Showcase, which lets kids meet first responders like firemen and policemen face-to-face so they’re not afraid of them when they need them. We’re also going to Preparedness Day at the Kansas State Fair, and then off to a hospital. Along the way, we’ll be seeing more classrooms full of kids around the state.

Today, Fred’s efforts are backed with funding from CDC that has enabled us to create a suite of materials, including preparedness-themed coloring books and stickers we send home with kids after we meet them. The materials reinforce the three most important things everyone can do to be ready: Get a kit. Make a Plan. Be informed.

Fred also has his own iPhone app, and a website and Facebook page where he posts about his latest adventures.

Fred the Preparedness Dog is the mascot for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Preparedness Program. His mission is to increase family and pet preparedness for all types of emergencies.

Read our other National Preparedness Month blogs:

Posted on by Michael McNulty, Director of Homeland Security Operations, Kansas Department of Health and EnvironmentTags , , , , ,

One comment on “Fred the Preparedness Dog—Tails from Kansas”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    It is very nice to see that Homeland Security’s Health and Environment department is taking an interest in educating children on how to prepare for natural disasters and emergency preparedness. This can be a very scary time for young children and using a dog to make it fun for them is an amazing idea. This is especially important in the Midwest due to all the weather issues. In recent years the tornados that have hit these areas has increased and they have been even more lethal. Who would have thought that a dog in the bathtub would be such a useful tool to help educate our youth on safety. The use of the backpack on dog to hold emergency/first aid kits is such a great idea. It allows children to have the useful items that they are now trained how to use if they need them. I really enjoyed getting to read this blog and it made me happy that the use of animals helped children understand what was important during emergency preparedness.

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