Submitted by Christine Messervey, Lina Suarez and Martha Keswick
22 Jan 2024

Empowering children for a resilient future with free resources: the COPE Disaster Books series

As temperatures continue to climb and the world’s climate becomes ever more extreme, adults need resources to equip children with the knowledge and skills that will enable them to navigate the rapidly changing world. Discussing the complex challenges posed by climate change with children is far from straightforward, though, and can, at times, cause anxiety.

This is where the COPE Disaster Books series can help. These illustrated storybooks are designed to help children understand hazards and disasters in a non-frightening, fun and informal way. The series introduces the COPE squad, a team of children trained in disaster risk reduction. They undertake exciting missions around the world, teaching other children about different hazards, learning about different cultures, climates and habitats along the way.

The books offer coping tools, preparedness strategies and relatable stories in a format that is easy to understand. And each book emphasizes easy-to-remember safety messages for different hazards, such as:

  • earthquake: DROP, COVER, HOLD
  • tsunami: GET UP TO HIGH GROUND
  • flood: EVACUATE
  • cyclone: STAY SAFE
  • storm surge: KEEP CLEAR FROM THE COAST
  • wildfire: BE READY TO GO
  • drought: EVERY DROP COUNTS
  • blizzard: WRAP UP, STAY INSIDE

Children as influencers in their communities

Children can influence disaster risk reduction in their communities, for example through helping to raise awareness, sharing early warnings and being extra vigilant to keep others safe. In particular, women and girls are often tasked – both personally and professionally – with caring for children, older people and people with disabilities. If children learn how to make simple, life-saving decisions, they can make all the difference in emergencies.

A notable example is the story of Tilly Smith, a young girl who learned about tsunamis in her school geography lessons. While on a family holiday in Phuket, Thailand, during the 2004 tsunami, Tilly’s knowledge enabled her to identify the early warning signs, such as the receding tide and the exposed ocean floor. She urged people to “GET UP TO HIGH GROUND”, helping to save numerous lives. Tilly’s quick-thinking is a reminder of the positive impact that educating children about disaster risk reduction can have.

Encouraging children to act ahead of hazards

The books outline actions that children can take before, during and after hazards. This includes anticipatory actions that are taken before a forecast hazard occurs. For example:

  • in Cyclones, the COPE team share ideas such as listening out for local warnings and getting your house ready to survive the hazard
  • in Floods, they discuss the need to plan evacuation routes, have a contact plan with your family, and pack a survival bag
  • in Landslides, the COPE team are taught how to look for warning signs for this hazard, for example by following rainfall patterns and checking for splits appearing in the ground.

There is a growing awareness of the need to include and empower children and young people in anticipatory action initiatives, as well as other stages of disaster risk management. The COPE Disaster series can support those looking to develop this element of their anticipatory action projects and plans.

© Hong Kong: HKJCDPRI; Nepal: World Vision; India: UNMGCY

Watch a video about the COPE Disaster Books series here

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This blog post was written by the COPE team: Christine Messervey, Lina Suarez and Martha Keswick.

All COPE content is vetted and approved by disaster risk reduction experts worldwide, and the Disaster series are free to download. To date, the books have been translated into 18 languages, including through an initiative funded by the World Meteorological Organization to provide the series in the six official UN languages.

There are also animated trailers for each book available on COPE’s YouTube channel.