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Earlier this month, Wisconsin Emergency Management and Wisconsin National Guard personnel were joined by two dozen AT&T Pioneers volunteers at Joint Force Headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin, to assemble approximately 12,000 Student Tools for Emergency Planning (STEP) starter emergency kits as part of an annual classroom program to teach fifth-grade students how to prepare for emergencies or disasters.

“Getting students excited about emergency preparedness is the goal of the STEP program,” said Tod Pritchard, a public information officer with Wisconsin Emergency Management. “Students bring these starter kits home and share what they learned in the classroom. It’s a perfect starting point for creating a family emergency plan.”

Wisconsin was the first state in the Midwest to teach the STEP program in 2011, involving more than 40,000 students to date. Michigan and Iowa now administer their own STEP programs. This year, approximately 12,000 students at 160 schools across Wisconsin will participate in the STEP program.


“When I visit schools participating in STEP, they thank me for this tremendous program,” Brian Satula, WEM administrator, said to the volunteers assembling the STEP starter kits. “But it’s you and your efforts that make this all happen. Your hard work makes STEP possible, and I thank you so much for all that you do.”

The lessons learned through the STEP program have proven to be life-saving. In April of 2015, STEP student Angela Connolly used what she had learned to prevent her mother from running into a burning barn at their home near Frederic, Wisconsin. She told her mother they needed to follow the emergency plan she had just learned about in school. Firefighters quickly arrived to extinguish the fire.

Grants from AT&T Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Wireless Association help fund the STEP program.

“We know how critical it is to be ready and prepared to respond in the event of a disaster or emergency,” said Scott VanderSanden, president of AT&T Wisconsin.

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, will join Pritchard for the official STEP kickoff Monday (Jan. 30) at Waubesa Intermediate School in McFarland, Wisconsin.