For a Preparedness Teaching Gig, Chertoff Hires This Cat With 9 Lives

Friday, February 3, 2006

CHICAGO, Feb. 2 -- The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday introduced an animated family of mountain lions to lead a public service campaign aimed at getting families to prepare for natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

In a cheerier version of the 1950s' "duck and cover" classroom drills that advised students to dive under their desks in the event of nuclear attack, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff outlined the "Ready Kids" campaign at a Chicago elementary school.

Ready Kids is an offshoot of emergency response campaigns targeted at businesses and the general public.

"We're going to be talking about things during the course of this campaign like having emergency supply kits for families, having family plans about where to go and where to meet in case of emergency," Chertoff told 75 schoolchildren, their parents and journalists at Andrew Jackson Language Academy, a magnet school.

He said the department is working with educators and the American Psychological Association "to make sure our lessons are age-appropriate, helpful, not anxiety-provoking, but get the message across."

Advice is dispensed by an animated mountain lion named Rex -- a talking cat sporting a flashlight and a grin -- and his cartoon family, including Purrcilla and a hummingbird friend, through public service advertisements and a Web site, .

Written materials featuring the mascots have been sent to 135,000 teachers to explain how families should collect water, food, a radio, a flashlight, batteries, books, games and other supplies sufficient to last three days.

-- Reuters

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