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Know How to Stop, Drop, & Roll? Then It’s Time to Rinse, Lather, & Repeat

By Dr. Maurice A. Ramirez

You may be surprised to learn that over the past 2 decades more children have saved the lives of their parents in home fires than parents have save children. Nearly two generations ago, the National Fire Safety Council created the Stop, Drop, and Roll program for kindergartners. The theory was simple: Since adult education on fire safety was failing miserably, with home fire related deaths increasing year after year, the council decided to introduce fire safety to children, hoping the children would influence their parents and take the fire safety knowledge with them throughout their life.

The plan worked. Today, the majority of adults in their thirties, and even many in their forties, know exactly what to do in the event of a fire: crawl below the smoke; touch the door not the doorknob before opening a door during a fire; and, of course, stop, drop, and roll should your clothes catch fire. Now that deaths due to home fires have decreased, it’s time for everyone to face the next big problem: Zero Resiliency.

What is Zero Resiliency? It means that the majority of people today are dependent on the community or federal government to help them in the event of a natural disaster, even though every municipality, state, and the federal government tells people that they need to have an evacuation plan ready and they need to be able to survive for 72 hours on their own before outside help arrives. Billions of dollars have been spent in an attempt to educate people about disaster planning, but few are taking notice.

Think about it. If a natural disaster were to strike your location right now, this moment, are you prepared? Do you have your evacuation plan mapped out? Do you have a three-day supply of food and water available for each member of your family? Is your emergency backpack stocked and ready to go? For most people, the answer to each of these questions is “no.”

Unfortunately, having zero resiliency is a byproduct of our current economy. Many businesses have and promote a “just in time” mentality. Even marketers encourage consumers to adopt a “just in time” outlook. Few people these days buy a week’s worth of groceries anymore. Instead, they stop by the grocery store every night on their way home from work and purchase enough food for the evening meal and next morning’s breakfast. So we’ve gotten away from even having a week’s worth of food in the house. As such, few people can self-sustain in times of disaster.

Rinse, Lather, & Repeat: New Training for a New Era: Since educating adults about disaster planning is having as much success as the old fire safety messages that targeted adults, it’s time to shift our educational dollars to the youngest of Americans—the kindergarteners. That’s where Rinse, Lather, and Repeat comes in.

Rinse, Lather, and Repeat is a new program that seeks to duplicate the successes of the National Fire Safety Council’s Stop, Drop, and Roll program. Like its predecessor, Rinse, Lather, and Repeat is a one-week educational curriculum for kindergarten-age students that focuses on five core activities:

1)   Preparation and maintenance of a three-day travel pack

2)   Knowledge of where to obtain reliable news and evacuation instructions

3)   The memorization of local and out-of-state phone numbers for friends, relatives, or family

4)   The location of local shelters and local evacuation routes

5)   The appropriate self-decontamination procedure whether at home in a household shower or at a hospital or other community facility

One of the core, hands-on activities children will engage in during the Rinse, Lather, and Repeat program is the preparation of a three-day travel pack. This kit, which the children will actually assemble, includes:

  • Three days of clothing including underwear

  • Thee days of energy bars or shelf-stable packaged food items chosen by the child

  • Three days of water

  • One week’s toiletries, including toothbrush, hairbrush, toothpaste, and toilet paper

  • A two-week medication case (without medications)

  • A USB flash drive containing medical records and a document inventory device

  • One roll of quarters (for pay phones, which are self-powered)

  • Photos of each family member

  • List of each family member with age and contact telephone numbers (cell phone)

  • List of two local and two out-of-state family members, friends, or relatives with addresses and phone numbers

  • Backpack to place all items within.

In addition to assembling the backpack, children will review local information sources, including cable television, weather services, local access cable, local government cable and television sources, local information radio, and local print media. They will also memorize the four relatives with their associated phone numbers, as well as practice the use of the various information channels that they chose.

Homework assignments that get the parents involved will include the location of the closest appropriate evacuation shelter for the family. In some communities this may be the family basement, while in other communities it may represent a Red Cross shelter or even a special-needs shelter established by local government or health department. Children will also learn on a map the appropriate evacuation route for their community.

Finally, children will learn the crux of the Rinse, Lather, and Repeat program, which is how to decontaminate themselves. Contamination can occur for a number of reasons, including raw sewerage if the levee breaks flooding their town, household chemicals like bleach or cleaning products may be splashed on them at home, there may be an industrial accident in their community, or even a biological or chemical weapon scare.

Unfortunately, health care workers still struggle with how to decontaminate a child. After all, we teach children never to get naked in public, so you can’t expect them to disrobe in front of people in bio-suits and walk naked through a decontamination unit. However, every child can be taught how to take a simple shower, which is really all decontamination is. They just have to learn to Rinse well, to Lather well (not just wander around in the bathtub as so many kids do), and then to Repeat the process one time.

Therefore, the steps to and logic behind Rinse, Lather, and Repeat are as follows:

1)   Disrobe, thus removing 87% of all contaminants

2)   Rinse their body thoroughly, rubbing all portions of their body with their hands to remove any contamination (now reducing contamination by 97 to 99 percent)

3)   Lather well, utilizing soap, shampoo, or other decontamination supplies, to wash every inch of their body. This means total-body washing and scrubbing every aspect of their body well with their hands

4)   Repeat the rinse, fully removing all soap or other decontamination materials

The Rinse, Lather, Repeat process can be taught utilizing comic books and/or coloring books with children in the classroom while fully dressed. In addition to providing the necessary skills to care for themselves in the event of a chemical accident, children will also learn to maintain good hygiene by learning a skill seldom taught by their parents: how to take an effective shower. This skill will also assist healthcare in the future by providing basic decontamination skills to children and ultimately to the adults that they will grow to become.

Rinse, Lather, and Repeat week will culminate with the children taking their new three-day travel packs home to be placed proudly in a closet or in the trunk of mommy or daddy’s car. Now the child is ready in the event that they must shelter in place or evacuate with the family.

Implement Rinse, Lather, and Repeat Today: Currently, no school in the United States implements the Rinse, Lather, and Repeat curriculum. And as we saw with Hurricane Katrina, that needs to change. People need to be prepared for a disaster, and Rinse, Lather, and Repeat is our best defense to drive the message home.

By implementing the Rinse, Lather, and Repeat program, within a 20-year period, we will return the United States to the same level of resilience we saw during World War II, during the Korean War, and during the early days of the Cold War, without the hysteria, and without burdening our schools. In fact, Rinse, Lather, and Repeat will solve the national problem of Zero Resiliency with almost no effort.

So the next time your child comes home with a Stop, Drop, and Roll assignment from school, ask the teacher when the next Rinse, Lather, and Repeat program will take place. After all, Rinse, Lather, and Repeat is our best opportunity to augment the level of national disaster preparedness by increasing self-reliance and the individual resilience of each American citizen.

Read other articles and learn more about Dr. Maurice Ramirez.

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