Skip to main content

Disaster Response Class Prepares BYU Students to Serve Their Community

To prepare students from Brigham Young University to assist their communities, the College of Life Sciences offers a public health elective: Disaster Response and Emergency Preparedness. Students learn practical skills and earn certification that quips them to play an active role when critical circumstances arise. Participants in the course come out with a greater appreciation for emergency responders and a greater desire to serve their communities through volunteer and management work.

Dr. John Beard and student stand behind table with stuffed animals.
Here, public health professor John Beard uses stuffed animals to simulate an emergency incident to allow students a hands on experience in the classroom.

Here are four disasters that everyone should be prepared for:


  1. In your home, maintain a reasonable supply of prescription and over-the-counter drugs that could run out due to high demand during a pandemic.
  2. Make electronic copies of health records from doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies for personal reference.
  3. During a pandemic, avoid contact with people who are sick. If you are sick, protect others by keeping your distance and washing your hands regularly.
  4. Practice good health habits like sufficient sleep and physical activity so that your body can be optimally prepared to fight any infections.


    1. Prepare now by securing objects in your home that could fall and injure occupants during an earthquake.
    2. Make 72-hour kits, one for each family member.
    3. During an earthquake, drop to the ground and cover your head with your hands or hide under a table. If you are in a vehicle, pull over and apply your parking brake. If you are outdoors, find a clearing area away from buildings and power lines.
    4. Know where emergency exits and fire alarms are located in the building.

    Winter storms

      1. Prepare now for extreme winter weather by keeping your home effectively insulated.
      2. Sign up for Utah County’s Emergency Alert Program at
      3. Put together an emergency supply kit and keep it in your car. This can include jumper cables, flashlights, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable foods.
      4. When treating frostbite, avoid massaging the area or warming with a heating pad. Instead, move the individual to a warm room and soak the affected area in warm water.


      1. Keep functioning smoke detectors in your home.
      2. Sign up for your community’s warning system by visiting
      3. If you are forced to evacuate, make sure all windows in your home are closed to avoid smoke damage.
      4. Keep a fire extinguisher in your house for small fires, but do not attempt to extinguish large fires on your own. Leave that to professionals.

      One BYU public health student, Tehina Craven, says that learning about disaster preparedness can “help you and your family see potential hazards ahead of time . . . and understand how your city will respond and what role you can play.” Successful response to disasters and emergencies depends on people from a multitude of specialties working together—from mental health treatment to government policy and leadership.

      Learn more about how to prepare your family and community by visiting or