Fred the Preparedness Dog—Tails from KansasPosted on by
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
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 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.