The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and the United Nations produced the Stop Disasters!
website for the purpose of teaching children ages 9-16 about how to deal with disasters. The website educates kids by letting them play through five different scenarios: a tsunami in Southeast Asia, a hurricane in the Caribbean, a wildfire in central Australia, an earthquake in the eastern Mediterranean, and a flood in east-central Europe.
The scenarios can be played on three levels of difficulty, and each takes between 10 to 25 minutes to complete. In each, kids are given a set amount of money and time in which to make improvements to a community before a natural hazard occurs. In addition to improvements, kids are asked to build new houses, schools, and hospitals in places where the population will be safe.
Game play consists of clicking on grid squares within a map of the community and making decisions based on the information that pops up. By clicking on a grid square, you glean information about the buildings, plants, or terrain of that square and what you can do to better prepare that square for the upcoming hazard. For example, in the hurricane simulation, you can elect to shore up a building by securing the roofing, adding storm shutters, and providing for sewer backflow. In the wildfire simulation, you can create firebreaks by clearing vegetation close to homes.
As you play the simulation, you are given suggestions about how to prepare your community for the upcoming hazard. At the end of the time, you watch the hazard occur, and you are judged on how well you protected your community – did the hazard turn into a disaster? While people are reported as dead or injured, you never see anyone being hurt -- you just see destroyed homes and landscapes.
As with all good simulation games, kids learn by trial and error. The first time our testers tried to protect their Caribbean community from the impending hurricane, they failed. But the second time they played, they succeeded. In addition to learning by doing, the website also provides fact sheets on each type of disaster and links to other resources, including a teacher's guide.
"Children are one of the most vulnerable groups when disasters occur," explains the website. By playing these simulations, kids can help their parents learn the best techniques possible to prepare.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.