Huntsville Arkansas Rapid Response Team Project

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Huntsville Arkansas Rapid Response Team Project

When disaster strikes and emergencies happen, the American Red Cross is there to lend a helping hand. Now, they have created the Rapid Response Team Project designed to train our youth how to respond during times of chaos and danger. 

In today's world, the children of our nation are constantly bombarded with negativity and given options of personal destruction in an overwhelming stream of despair and hopelessness. Research has proven time and again that children who are active in school and church activities are much less likely to fall victim to these paths of disaster than those who wander the streets and through life searching for happiness in material and chemical pursuits.

Organizations like the Huntsville Arkansas Rapid Response Team (HARRT) offer young people another path. HARRT's focus on medical training, emergency management, leadership and team-building allow students to develop in a positive manner and to learn the joy of leadership through service.

We know that at some point this year a community in the United States will be devastated by a natural or man-made disaster. Tornadoes drop out of the sky unexpectedly; flood waters envelope entire communities and earthquakes lurk beneath the Earth’s surface with the potential to destroy an entire region. Beyond the ominous threat of Mother Nature lies the destruction imposed on humanity by mankind. Accidents happen as trains derail, fires consume, vehicles collide, machines fail and workers make mistakes. Perhaps worst of all, evil people with ill intent will choose to harm others; all too often our children serving as the targets of their viciousness.

Naturally, we hope that when these tragic events occur, the best trained emergency responders armed with the best equipment available will respond quickly to mitigate damage and save lives. Experience, however, tells us this is not always the case. Far too often, the scale of the disaster is too great for the emergency resources at hand or responders and their equipment are caught up in the devastation themselves.

The #1 natural disaster in the United States is flooding. All 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods. Flash floods often bring walls of water 10 to 20 feet high yet even just a few inches of water from a flood can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage. A car can easily be carried away by just two feet of floodwater. Flash flooding is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S. with approximately 200 deaths per year. Of those, just over 50% of these flood-related drownings are vehicle-related.

Roughly 17 million people live in what is known as Tornado Alley, an area which spans all or parts of eight states across the middle of our nation. Although it covers just 15% of the United States, this area suffered nearly 30% of all the confirmed tornadoes between 1950 and 2012 averaging 268 tornadoes per year. There were 5,587 confirmed fatalities during that period of time with 1,110 occurring in Tornado Alley. Injuries caused by tornadoes are much more numerous. For the same period, there were 64,054 injuries reported across the United States, which averages out to just over 1,000 per year. Twenty four percent of those injuries occurred in Tornado Alley. While only 2% of tornadoes were deadly nationwide, some were hugely destructive.

An average of 16,375 teenagers aged 12-19 years died in the United States every year from 1999 to 2006. The leading cause of death among teenagers was from accidents (unintentional injuries), accounting for nearly one-half of all teenage deaths. As a category of accidents, motor vehicle fatality is the leading cause of death to teenagers, representing over one-third of all deaths.

Their names ring hollow in our hearts: Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Jonesboro and the list stretches on like that long, black train. Every year, somewhere in this country, school violence will claim the lives of our children, teachers and others in a senseless attack.

One constant that holds true in all of these situations is that with proper planning and preparation lives can be saved and suffering reduced. It is with this reality in mind that the focus of this year’s National Service Project (NSP) “Ready, Set, Plan: Emergency Planning and Preparedness” is so significant.

The untapped potential of our nation’s youth is a renewable resource waiting to be utilized in making our world a better place for all. EAST (Environmental and Spatial Technology, Inc.) provides our young people an avenue to not just explore their potential but to realize the fruits of their own labor and we are all the richer for it. The student-driven, project-based focus on solving real world problems is an excellent forum for our students to step out of the classroom and into their communities to make a difference.

Teaching people to recognize the threats they face in their everyday lives and arming them with informed options empowers them to make life-saving choices that make a difference when time counts.

Unfortunately, we can’t always have the best trained emergency responders armed with the best equipment available when disaster strikes but by unleashing our students and their vast capacity for problem-solving on this issue, they will make a difference and by this time next year, we will be sharing stories about our students from across the EAST universe who made a difference in their communities by saving lives and reducing suffering as a direct result of their innovative approaches and hard work.

I have had the honor of being the state chairman for the American Red Cross Rapid Response Team Project in Arkansas for the last decade. During that time period, I have had the distinct privilege of witnessing hundreds of high school students from across our great state being trained in emergency management skills and then go on in careers in the emergency services or medical field or just into life where circumstances forced them to use their skills to help others. In case after case, I have seen first-hand what young people who are motivated, educated and dedicated can do to make a difference and it is inspiring.

My father, Harry F. Shinn, was a career educator and a volunteer firefighter who would often say, “Education is not a passive experience.” He believed that it was essential for us as educators to engage our students in their own learning because when they take ownership of it, they have pride in it and in themselves. He was right and this year’s National Service Project is an excellent example of that philosophy because it empowers our youth to make a significant contribution in using their talents and skill in helping others.

Whether it is through community education presentations, training young people in emergency response skills, collaborating with members in their community to develop shelters or warning systems, or just bringing awareness to their peers about the dangers they face and the ways to stay safe, EAST students everywhere will be changing the world for the better. John Kennedy said, “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.”

I look forward to seeing how the EAST nation harnesses this resource for change.


If you would like to contribute to this valiant effort, they would gladly accept your kind donations.



4855 Madison 2035

Huntsville, AR 72740

Phone Numbers

Phone: (479) 738-1048 fax: (479) 738-1048