Monday, June 15, 2015

UNO-CHART Wins National Award for Risk Literacy Project

The University of New Orleans Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology (UNO-CHART) won a national award and received a $2,500 prize for an educational program designed to simultaneously improve literacy and disaster preparedness in Louisiana. The award and prize money come from Solution Search, a series of competitions focused on identifying successful approaches to environmental challenges. UNO-CHART’s “Preparing for Storms in Louisiana” risk literacy curriculum was named as a runner up during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. at the Newseum on June 8. Tara Lambeth, UNO-CHART assistant director, attended the ceremony and accepted the award on behalf of the project team.

Solution Search uses several open-invitation contests to identify promising new approaches to conservation activities. UNO-CHART placed in a competition aimed at improving responses to weather disasters called “Reducing Our Risk: Innovations for Disaster Preparation.” At the contest’s conclusion, Solution Search awarded a total of $60,000 in prizes to five organizations. Winners were determined by both public Internet voting and judging by a team of distinctive professionals, including former U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, The Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore and former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration agency head Jane Lubchenco. The Judges’ Choice Award went to the City of Ottawa, Illinois for a floodplain innovation project. Joining UNO-CHART as winners in the People’s Choice category are Flagstaff, Arizona efforts to prevent wildfires and protect watersheds, a shoreline management program from Restore America’s Estuaries and the American Littoral Society’s effort to rebuild degraded marsh in Queens, New York. Approximately 26,000 public votes were cast.

UNO-CHART’s “Preparing for Storms in Louisiana” is a unique educational tool that teaches literacy and disaster preparedness simultaneously. It is a literacy program that uses risk as subject matter to improve disaster preparedness among low-literacy populations. The curriculum uses plain language, a communications approach involving certain techniques to ensure an audience understands information the first time it is presented. The risk literacy curriculum has multiple parts, including a student manual, facilitator’s guide, take home guide and flashcards. There are both English and Spanish components, and a second edition was created based on feedback from adult education providers. The project was made possible by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency through the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

UNO-CHART is an applied social science hazards research center focused on supporting Louisiana community sustainability in light of natural, technological and environmental risks to which the state is vulnerable. The Center seeks to understand ways in which Louisiana communities and the coastal region respond to these risks, assist in the development of best practices for reducing risks and support implementation of these practices to achieve comprehensive community sustainability. The project team for “Preparing for Storms in Louisiana” was led by Pam Jenkins, UNO research professor of sociology, and included Monica Farris, UNO-CHART director; Maggie Olivier, research associate; Jeff Rinehart, fine arts instructor; Hazel Spaulding Parker, education instructor; Race Hodges, graduate assistant; Kim Mosby, graduate assistant; Kyle Griffith, graduate assistant; and Kyle Tveten, student worker.

Solution Search crowdsources new approaches to weather disasters, climate change and marine biodiversity. This series of competitions was created by the international conservation organization known as Rare, which specializes in designing social marketing campaigns to increase global sustainability.