North Carolina Cooperative Extension and community volunteers partner with innovative national award-winning youth preparedness initiative, MyPI National

Lifts, drags and carries

MyPI NC instructors practice lifts, drags and carries

This week on the North Carolina State University campus in Raleigh, NC, the initial delegation of instructors within the North Carolina Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI North Carolina, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the tenth state to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to Dr. Sarah Kirby, Professor and FCS Program Leader at North Carolina State University, “One of the central features that attracted me to this program is its ability to engage youth and help provide a forum for them to make a difference in their community and in their own families related to disaster preparation.  This program encourages resilience in youth and can empower them and improve their response in the event of an emergency/disaster.”

With the goal of initially reaching at least 125 of North Carolina’s youth through an intensive training and service project model, North Carolina Cooperative Extension staff, emergency management personnel, and community volunteers from 10 counties have teamed to offer this teen-centric preparedness initiative to support emergency preparedness in their local communities.”  Added Kirby, who also serves at the program coordinator for MyPI North Carolina, “We have had a number of significant natural disasters in North Carolina including Hurricanes Fran, Floyd, Irene, Matthew, ice storms, tornados, and wildfires.  But also, we have manmade disasters and emergencies that have occurred in our state.  Because of these, we’ve been actively involved in community preparation and response for adults, but have not specifically focused on this program’s target audience, teens. As the next generation of adults, we have a responsibility to teach preparedness skills to youth. Also, as we teach youth, we know they will teach their families as well. Our graduates will also have a tremendous skillset and knowledge gained through this program that will last a lifetime.”

Over the next 18 months, MyPI North Carolina will be offering this innovative and engaging youth preparedness program to teens who will assist families and communities across the state.  This program, based on a national award winning model delivered in Mississippi through the Mississippi State University Extension Service and Mississippi Citizen Corps, enhances individual, family, and community preparedness for disasters, while at the same time, strengthening youth leadership, communication skills, teamwork, decision making, self-esteem, civic responsibility, and empowerment, along with family communication and cohesion. “One of our underlying missions within MyPI National is to essentially reboot youth preparedness and capitalize on the energy of teens across this country, and to set the new standard for how we engage our teens in sustained preparedness endeavors as we move forward in the face of a variety of threats and hazards.  We have seen fantastic success for several years in Mississippi and have now begun to see the same impact within our partners under the MyPI National umbrella.  As our MyPI National team works with MyPI North Carolina instructors over the next 18 months, we will continue the process of fostering relationships and networks that will hopefully ensure the success of MyPI North Carolina for years to come, which is yet another achievable outcome and one that this great state and its citizens and communities deserve,” said Dr. C. Ryan Akers, MyPI National and MyPI Mississippi Project Director.  Mississippi Citizen Corps State Program Manager and Lead Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Instructor for MyPI National, Dave Nichols, added, “One of the fantastic characteristics of the MyPI North Carolina instructors was their overwhelming passion for working with youth and understanding that they too have a role in community preparedness.  They were extremely focused and are very motivated to enhance preparedness efforts in their communities and to make a positive impact in the lives of the teens they will work with.  I am eager to see the results and positive impact this two-time national award winning program, delivered by these passionate instructors, will have here.” 

MyPI North Carolina is a component of the National Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI National, a partnership of 18 states and 1 US territory.  MyPI National Phase 1 began by delivering the MyPI model to teenagers across Nebraska, Hawaii, New Jersey, Washington, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, and Mississippi.  In September of 2017, MyPI National was awarded the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individual and Community Preparedness national award for “Outstanding Achievement in Youth Preparedness.”  Capitalizing on program success and momentum, MyPI National received federal funding for a Phase 2 expansion of the program which enabled the inclusion of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, South Dakota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, and the first US territory to be represented, Guam. 

Regarding North Carolina, Akers stated, “I know I speak for my entire team when I say that we could not be more excited about the level of passion, engagement, and motivation of the newly certified MyPI North Carolina instructors.  This is what we wanted to see when we began envisioning this program.  At the National level, it makes our job administering the program so much easier and more enjoyable when you have a cohesive unit that already has a vision for delivering MyPI.  This was certainly the case here in Raleigh this week.  North Carolina teens, their families, and their communities are in for a treat on multiple levels.  It was a pleasure for the MyPI National team to be here this week in Raleigh, working hand in hand with the instructors and with Dr. Sarah Kirby, the MyPI North Carolina program coordinator during their comprehensive training.  We are excited about this great partnership with North Carolina Cooperative Extension and with its community volunteers.  I anticipate fantastic growth as MyPI North Carolina takes root, progresses and flourishes across the state in large part because of their efforts and dedication.  MyPI offers a tremendous, multi-faceted approach to youth preparedness with rich learning and leadership opportunities for teens and enhanced preparedness levels for families and communities.  There is a definitive focus and energy necessary as we move into the next phase of MyPI North Carolina, where the real work is done and the real impact is seen. On a personal and a professional level, I look forward to seeing these new instructors respond to the challenge and become the catalyst for positive impact.  It is clear from this week, that the instructors have a strong passion for disaster education and preparedness, the development of their youth and safety of their families, and the livelihood of these communities, which is wonderful to see.  We expect a profoundly positive impact for all involved here and will continue to work with the instructors and the MyPI North Carolina program coordinator to ensure its success.”     

The MyPI model offers a flexible 5 to 10 week, three component program.  In Component A, teenagers will complete the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency-certified Teen CERT training and corresponding modules focusing on Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety and Utility Control, Disaster Medical Operations, Light Search and Rescue, CERT Organization, Disaster Psychology, and Terrorism and CERT.  In Component B, the Add-On Catalog features certification in CPR and AED usage, along with a technology track comprised of awareness programs focusing on HAM Radio, NOAA Weather Radio, Smoke Alarm Maintenance, and Smart Phone App and Social Media in Emergency Preparedness.  The Add-On Catalog also includes a Disaster simulation, and a Career Track that focuses on public safety, fire service, and emergency management careers.  The final element of the program, Component C, includes a comprehensive family and community service project entitled PREP + 6 in which each participant helps develop emergency supply kits and emergency communication plans for their family AND 6 additional families or households. This component allows for significant enhancement in individual, family, and community preparedness and resilience.  To graduate from the program, students must complete all components.   

Sandy Hall, Nash County Extension Director for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, is among the newly certified MyPI North Carolina instructors and will soon be delivering the program locally.  Hall’s message about the program is simple, “Youth like to be empowered to serve in their communities. MyPI will engage youth in assisting our emergency management personnel. I specifically like the third component of MyPI, the Prep + 6 service project. This particular part of the program allows the youth, once trained, to immediately help families to develop their emergency kits and communication plans.  This helps identify them as a leader in their community and multiplies the number of families in that community prepared for a disaster.”

According to Sherry Fischlschweiger, another newly certified MyPI North Carolina instructor who serves as Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development in Currituck County for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, “As a 4-H professional, I am always looking for curriculum that allows me to educate youth in multiple life skill areas and MyPI is the total package. With this program, my youth are learning and exercising critical skills such as problem solving, critical thinking and analysis, initiative and self-preparedness - all with the goal of providing service to their community. Its hands-on learning, its teamwork, its decision making, and its empowerment for the youth, their families and the community. This training will give them knowledge, skills and confidence to become proficient, contributing citizen leaders.  For those interested in becoming involved with MyPI, and perhaps becoming an instructor, make sure you love working with teens and are motivated as this program is all encompassing and involved. You will be engaged as much as the youth taking your class, and you will learn as much as they do.  The program will have just as great an impact on you as it will on them.”

Tanya Heath, who serves as an Edgecombe County Extension Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, discussed why students, families, and community officials should take notice of MyPI.  According to Heath, “It is important that youth and their families become more aware and prepare for emergencies and disasters.  It is not a matter of ‘if’ it will happen, but ‘when’ it will happen, so it is important to stress the importance of how to teach families how to prepare and how to create emergency supply kits and communication plans in order to prepare and be ready for the next disaster.  This program encourages youth leadership and service while emphasizing safety.  Among its comprehensive catalog, it also provides opportunities for certification in CPR and AED along with a capstone community service project.  It is important for school and community officials to know that they have a certified and capable group of teen leaders willing to serve in a role during an emergency situation if requested to serve.  It is an opportunity for these youth to learn valuable life skills that will positively impact their family members, neighbors and community.”

As the program develops and grows throughout North Carolina, MyPI fosters multiple local and state level partnerships with youth serving agencies, first responders, emergency management personnel, etc.  Alan Byrd, Chatham County Emergency Management Coordinator, was also recently certified to deliver MyPI.  Byrd believes that the program will empower youth to prepare themselves, their families, and communities.  According to Byrd, “This is an outstanding program that provides emergency preparedness training to youth of all ages, and allows them the opportunity to impact their families, churches, schools and their community in a positive way!  As an Emergency Management Coordinator, I see CERT as a vital program to ensure the overall resiliency of a community. Your CERT, or MyPI, can go a long way in the instilling throughout the community, an attitude of preparedness for generations to come.”
The partnering states in MyPI National are replicating the model created and delivered in Mississippi.  In 2014, the Mississippi Youth Preparedness Initiative was named FEMA’s national award winner for Outstanding Youth Preparedness program. It also received an Honorable Mention recognition for “Preparing the Whole Community.” In 2015, MyPI Mississippi was named one of the first entities to be named an official Affirmer of the new National Strategy for Youth Preparedness Education. As such, MyPI is an engaged and recognized component of a nationally supported, progressive approach to preparing youth for emergencies and disasters.  MyPI National is also recognized as an Affirmer of the national strategy.

For additional information regarding MyPI North Carolina, including areas of the state that the program will be delivered initially, please visit the MyPI North Carolina website at http://mypinorthcarolina.org or contact Dr. Sarah Kirby, MyPI North Carolina Program Coordinator at sdkirby@ncsu.edu or 919-515-9154.  For more information regarding MyPI National, please visit the MyPI National website at http://mypinational.extension.msstate.edu or contact Dr. Ryan Akers, MyPI National Project Coordinator at cra20@msstate.edu or 662.325.5914.  You may also reference both projects on social media platforms.  Facebook profiles can be found by searching My PI North Carolina and My PI National respectively, and Twitter feeds can be found by searching @MyPI_NC and @MyPI_National.