Texting Teens Inspire Hurricane Planners

Pinellas County emergency planners enlisted the help of some high school students to explain how to use texts to communicate during a disaster.

You've probably seen them, maybe even feared bumping into one of them at the mall.

Their heads lean forward with their eyes locked on the smartphone in their hands. Their thumbs move at a rapid-fire pace as they text messages and walk at the same time. 

Emergency management officials in charge of keeping Florida's most densely-populated county safe think we can learn a thing or two from these texting teens, which could wind up saving lives during a hurricane.

During disasters, cellphone towers become jammed, making it hard to call someone. But cellphone text messages can still be sent.

"It's proven to be a very reliable way of communicating," said Tom Iovino, Pinellas County spokesman. Iovino said that people were able to text message each other after the devastating tornadoes in Joplin, MS last year.

There's No Better Authority on Texting Than Teenagers

This year, Pinellas County Emergency Management staff decided to inform residents about using texts to communicate during emergency situations. To do this, they enlisted the help of experts on the topic. 

"Teenagers know how to use texting," Iovino said.

Students in Pinellas Park High School's First Responders Magnet Program helped the county by creating an informative YouTube video. Students Samantha Richards and Jake Yancey appear in the video.

"It feels great knowing that a couple of teenagers can teach a whole county how to do something like this," Richards said.

Yancey agrees: "It feels pretty good that we can spread our knowledge and spread our ideas and make sure it goes to the better well-being of our county."

Students Came Up With Components of Campaign

The kids in the class came up with a slogan, a brochure and a poster in addition to the 30-second YouTube video.  

"These are idea kids," said their teacher, Dale Koning. "Their best ideas percolated together to create this final video production… It was a great experience for them."

By the way, both teens say their parents know how to text.

"The only thing I had to teach them was the abbreviations, the LOL, the OMG and that sort of thing," Yancey said.

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