Because of volunteers like Cathy Bledsoe, local PTAs are much more than punch-and-cookies organizations.
Rather than making treats for schoolchildren, Bledsoe, as chairwoman of the state PTA's emergency preparedness committee, teaches them how to survive earthquakes and other disasters."People have a misconception about PTA. They think of it as a cookies-and-punch organization. They don't realize what PTA does," she said.
In Bledsoe's case what the organization does is travel the Wasatch Front conducting workshops for school administrators on how to make an emergency preparedness plan work. Funding for the program comes in the form of a $10,000 state grant administered through the Utah Department of Public Safety.
Bledsoe, who has a degree in elementary education from Brigham Young University, is self-taught when it comes to earthquake preparedness. She spends hours studying written materials and attending seminars to get the latest information.
"I'm really not an expert," she said.
Nonetheless, her efforts are prompting schools to take earthquake preparedeness more seriously, even though Bledsoe said it can be difficult to get them to listen at first.
"It's been rewarding to see the progress schools have made. It's a lot of work. Sometimes it's hard to get people motivated because we don't have the tremors here that they do in California," she said.
One thing that gets schools moving on an emergency preparedness plan, Bledsoe said, is the fact that it reduces liability should a disaster occur. Bledsoe said that's fine with her.
"The important point is it's better to do something than nothing," she said.
Bledsoe, a mother of five children ages 21 months to 18 years, said she has been working with the PTA for at least 10 years. She got involved in safety and emergency preparedness issues four or five years ago when "not much was being done in Provo."
In November 1988, Bledsoe organized an earthquake seminar for the Provo School District. She also produced a booklet on preparedness for the district that is still distributed in current workshops.
Bledsoe said she can't count the hours she spends working on PTA programs. But all the time is worth it, she said, because of a "desire to make things better in the community." She also wants to develop programs that "benefit children and families."
Without PTA, she said, many safety issues concerning children would go unaddressed.
Recently, Bledsoe and several other volunteers met with Gov. Norm Bangerter to discuss their concerns about heavy trucks coming down Provo Canyon and into the city. The trucks, she said, endanger the lives of school children who walk the same routes on which the trucks pass.
"We think it would be best if they stay on the interstate," Bledsoe said.
The truck issue is just one example of how PTA is involved, she said.
Bledsoe is currently working on a seat-belt safety campaign in the Provo district.