Reducing Our Risk


Entry Overview

UNO-CHART’s Risk Literacy project is an innovative, unique educational tool that focuses on teaching concepts of disaster resilience through literacy programs and literacy through disaster resilience. The project team created a way to teach literacy and disaster preparedness simultaneously; one of a few programs that teach disaster preparedness in this way. Based on current best practices and research on the issues surrounding literacy and disaster resilience, the project team developed materials for literacy programs relying on curricula from the few programs that exist nationally and internationally. The curriculum, entitled Preparing for Storms in Louisiana, was designed in Plain Language to teach the concepts of risk as a subject matter in literacy programs, as well as teach literacy through risk education. The project team completed two editions of the Risk Literacy curriculum materials. The second edition is an update to the first edition based on feedback from adult education providers. The curriculum has multiple parts, including a student manual, facilitator’s guide, take home guide, and flashcards. The curriculum includes both English and Spanish components.

General Info
Email :
Organization Address: 
2000 Lakeshore Drive, MH 106
New Orleans, Louisiana 70148
United States
Population Impacted: 
Storm Surge
Identify the likelihood and frequency of this hazard : 
According to the State of Louisiana Hazard Mitigation Plan, “extensive coastal development has increased the storm surge resulting from [tropical cyclones] so much that this has become the greatest natural hazard threat to property and loss of life in the state” (2-130). In 2005, there were more tropical storms and hurricanes than in any other year in recorded history, and rising sea levels and more extreme temperatures could cause storm surge to become more severe.
Explain how vulnerable the community is to this hazard: 
Almost everyone living in the southern part of Louisiana is vulnerable to storm surge, but groups with low literacy are even more vulnerable. The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy estimates that 16% of the adult population in Louisiana lacks the literacy skills necessary to comprehend even the most basic forms of continuous text, such as news stories and instructional materials. A significant number of people may have trouble understanding preparedness information regarding storm surge.
List the potential affects of this hazard: 
Storm surge caused by tropical cyclones can lead to power outages, evacuation, property damage, loss of life, loss of property, and other dangerous conditions. Many people may leave their homes and never return. And, if residents return, there are dangerous conditions after storm surge events, such as downed power lines, mold, and damaged buildings. Individuals may lose all of their belongings and important documents, making it difficult and costly to rebuild their homes and lives.
Identify how sensitive the community is to these affects: 
Many communities in Louisiana are sensitive to storm surge; however, coastal communities are the most vulnerable. These same coastal communities often have few resources and some may have low literacy rates. Many residents lack the resources to evacuate the area safely. They may lack information on preparing and mitigating effectively. In light of increasing vulnerability, there is a need for effective risk communication, along with the need to promote disaster literacy in the state.
Preparedness Goal: 
The Risk Literacy curriculum educates populations with low literacy about preparing for storms in Louisiana using plain language and graphics.
Implementing Actions: 

The project team developed the Risk Literacy curriculum to address the problem of low literacy and the need for storm preparedness. The curriculum was developed from the ground up, through community partnerships with literacy groups and programs. The curriculum was written and tested over and over, and the community and literacy providers in the community helped to build the curriculum through this testing and feedback. The first edition included a student manual and a facilitator’s guide. After receiving feedback from literacy providers, the project team decided to create a second edition of the curriculum, which includes a Spanish component. The second edition of the curriculum has four elements: a student manual, a student take home guide, a facilitator’s guide, and flashcards. The student manual, entitled Preparing for Storms in Louisiana, 2nd Edition, is written in plain language with a heavy graphic design element, and is useful for adult learners and also for students learning English as a second language. The take home guide includes a hurricane fact sheet, checklists, and other information that allows the learner to create a personal preparedness plan. The take home guide is for student use in class and at home, so students can study, review concepts and work on assignments. The take home guide is available in both English and Spanish. The facilitator’s guide has lesson plans, video clips, and activity sheets to assist adult education instructors. The facilitator’s guide is used to teach the material in the student manual and take home guide, and includes 14 lesson plans with reading comprehension strategies. The curriculum also includes storm preparedness flashcards, which are in Spanish on one side and in English on the other. They contain supplemental information on preparing for storms. All of the materials were printed and can be accessed on our website:

Describe Your Solution: 

By educating groups with low literacy about preparing for storms, the Risk Literacy project helps to teach literacy and disaster preparedness at the same time. The information provided on hurricanes, preparation, evacuation, returning and protection aids populations with low literacy in making important decisions when preparing for hurricanes and storm surge. The student manual and facilitator’s guide facilitate in class learning, while the take home guide and flashcards help students learn at home, and give them materials to keep and fill out so that they can make use of the information during the next storm. Through these materials, students learn the types of hurricanes and their impacts, ways to plan and prepare for storms, what to bring when they evacuate, how to safely return to their homes after a storm, and how to protect their belongings and property from storms in the future. They also learn when it is a good idea to evacuate, how to make a family plan, where to evacuate to and how much it costs, how to apply for disaster assistance, and how to obtain flood insurance. Using the materials, the students can make lists of what to include in a disaster supply kit, what important documents they need to take with them, and the information they need when filling out various forms. The lesson plans in the facilitator’s guide help underline the importance of these tasks, and walk the students through practice activities in class. In addition, the Spanish materials help to educate English as a Second Language learners as well. Having this knowledge allows students to be more prepared for storms, and could aid in lessening the impacts of storms to those students and their families, as they are more informed on how to mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from storms.


UNO-CHART created the Risk Literacy curriculum through a Community Education and Outreach grant from the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness through FEMA. The project team provided the materials online and in print at no cost for faith-based, nonprofit, governmental and educational groups throughout Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina cost the Gulf Coast 1,836 lives, $125 billion in economic damage, and displaced over one million residents. Educating the community about evacuation and sheltering helps reduce the cost of those programs, and reducing the risk to the community lessens the cost of property damage and the cost to human lives.


Educating coastal populations in Louisiana about storm preparedness allows for more understanding about the environmental hazards in this state, and more informed decision making about these hazards, especially storm surge. The hurricanes chapter points out the types of hurricanes and the amount of storm surge that can be expected during each type, and the protection section describes how to better mitigate homes in coastal areas, so storm surge has less of an effect in the future. This information is essential, as sea level rise and hurricanes continue to exacerbate storm surge in coastal Louisiana.


The curriculum has been distributed widely. The original manual was downloaded 2,410 times and the facilitator’s guide 1,072 times since posted in 2012. The new manual has been downloaded 21 times, the facilitator's guide 13 times, the English take home guide 19 times, the Spanish/English take home guide 16 times, and the flashcards 16 times since posted in August 2014. The Florida Literacy Coalition adapted the Preparing for Storms original manual for Florida. The materials have been distributed at multiple conferences and disseminated to faith-based, nonprofit, governmental and educational groups throughout Louisiana – a total of 3,500 hard copies.

What were the negative or unintended impacts (if any) associated with implementing this solution? : 

The only negative impact of the project was that there were not enough manuals printed to be distributed to all of the groups that needed them. However, the project team tried to circumvent this issue by posting all of the materials online. An unintended impact of the project was that a Senior Training Specialist from the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service is using the materials in his Pediatric Disaster Response and Emergency Preparedness FEMA course that he teaches across the country. Therefore, the materials will be used much more widely than originally intended.

Return on Investment: How much did it cost to implement these activities? How do your results above compare to this investment?: 

The first phase of the project, which resulted in the first edition of the manual and facilitator’s guide, cost $180,000. The second phase of the project, which resulted in the second edition of the manual and facilitator’s guide, as well as take home guides and flashcards, cost $180,000. These costs included staff and professional services fees as well as printing fees. In the first phase of the project, the project team printed 750 student manuals and facilitator’s guides, totaling $10, 199. In the second phase of the project, the project team printed 1,500 student manuals, 100 facilitator’s guides, 2,000 English take home guides, 2,000 Spanish take home guides, and 1,600 flash cards, totaling $18,317.93. Although limited hard copies were printed, everything is available online at no cost. The materials were downloaded and distributed widely, and have impacted a large population of the state at no cost to the educational providers, governmental programs, faith-based groups, and nonprofit organizations that use them. The project team continues to distribute the materials online and by hand delivery as requested. Now that the materials have been created, they can be reprinted and downloaded as needed, without having to reinvest in design, editing, or testing.

What are the main factors needed to successfully replicate this solution elsewhere?: 

In order to complete the Risk Literacy project, the project team made connections with literacy providers, conducted focus groups with those providers in order to understand how to best communicate the information, and worked with graphic designers and writers to produce the materials. The project team then tested and modified the materials with local literacy groups, made updates based on feedback to the testing, and printed and posted the materials online. Finally, the project team identified other groups in the community who could benefit from the materials and disseminated the materials to those groups. In order to successfully replicate this solution in other areas, the group implementing the project will not have to do the research, testing and editing. Since the template has already been developed, communities throughout the United States can adapt it to different geographies, hazards, and populations for just the cost of printing. This adaptation has already been proven successful, as the Florida Literacy Coalition revised the materials, with permission, to apply to the state of Florida. These materials can be found at As the project team developed more materials as the project evolved, other groups could design additional materials to go along with the curriculum.

Contest Info
Contest Name: 
Reducing Our Risk

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