Utah State University Extension partners with innovative national award-winning youth preparedness initiative, MyPI National

MyPI Utah Instructors practice cribbing

This week in South Jordan, Utah, the initial delegation of instructors within the Utah Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI Utah, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the 27th state/territory-level program to train instructors under the national project umbrella. According to Dr. Michael Pate, the MyPI Utah Program Manager, and who serves as an Associate Professor of Agricultural Systems Technology for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Utah State University, “The hope for this program is that Utah teens that graduate from MyPI will develop a greater civic responsibility as well as leadership skills that empowers them and builds their self-esteem. Through this, our communities will be able to safely respond in the event of an emergency to mitigate hazards making recovery faster and less stressful.” Added Pate, “As someone engaged in emergency preparedness and emergency management, the thing that attracted me most to the MyPI program was the focus on safety as a vital part of engaging youth in leadership development. The program emphasizes safe response to address community disasters to do the greatest good for the greatest number.”

Over the next 2 years, MyPI Utah will be offering this innovative and engaging youth preparedness program to teens who will assist families and communities in a variety of locations throughout Utah. This program, based on a national award-winning model developed and 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. “The underlying missions of MyPI National are to reboot youth preparedness across our states and territories, to capitalize on the energy of our teens, and to set the new standard for how we engage our teens in sustainable preparedness endeavors as we move forward in the face of a variety of threats and hazards that we continue to see on seemingly a daily basis, regardless of geographic location. From the large urban areas to the smaller rural towns and villages, emergencies and disasters do not discriminate. We have seen fantastic success for many years in Mississippi and have seen the same impact within our partners under the MyPI National umbrella. As our MyPI National team works with MyPI Utah instructors, we will continue the process of fostering relationships and networks that will hopefully ensure the success of this program for years to come, which is yet another very achievable outcome and one that these great citizens, families, and communities deserve,” said Dr. C. Ryan Akers, MyPI National Project Director and MyPI Mississippi Program Coordinator.

Added Akers, “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 Utah, where the real work is carried out 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 change and impact across Utah. 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. Who knows when we will see the next emergency or major disaster? But we do know that it’s not a question of if…it’s a question of when. The program that our instructors will deliver and the work our teens will do can provide an invaluable and perhaps life-saving service across their communities and for their people. We expect a positive impact for all involved and will continue to work with the instructors, the Program Manager, and community partners to ensure its success over the long-term.”

Mississippi Citizen Corps State Program Manager and Lead Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Instructor for MyPI National, Dave Nichols, added, “After the layoff stemming from the COVID era restrictions, it felt good to get back on the road and deliver training for this four-time, national award-winning youth preparedness program that is impacting and changing lives of youth across the country. On a side note, it has also been a pleasure to come back to the state where I spent my summers as a youth. I am looking forward to seeing the great work that our instructors will do and the impact that work makes upon the youth of Utah. I am fully confident in the first cohort of instructors that we have certified this week.”

MyPI Utah is a component of the National Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI National, a partnership of 37 states and 3 US territories. MyPI National’s Phase 1 pilot began in 2015 with 8 state-level programs. 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 began a Phase 2 expansion of the program which enabled the inclusion of 10 new states. In 2018, in addition to winning FEMA’s national CERT award for “Preparing the Whole Community”, MyPI National received additional federal funding for a Phase 3 expansion that added 11 new state partners and 2 US territories. In 2019, the MyPI model was recognized with the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals’ Citizenry in 4-H Youth Development national award, it’s fourth national award in five years. Finally, in 2022, MyPI National obtained federal funding from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture for a fourth of the program.

Regarding Utah’s program, Akers stated, “Our MyPI National Coordination team has literally travelled to all corners of the nation and across the world with this project. This week, we were excited to be back in FEMA Region VIII, where we have been looking to increase our programmatic footprint. I can confidently say that the MyPI Utah instructors have displayed fantastic levels of engagement, and motivation that is characteristic of our most productive partners. We are looking for that definitive ‘zest’ and ‘passion’ to move these projects forward and that was the case here this week. As a National training team, we always hope to entertain the level of discussions that clearly project the instructors are thinking long-term. That was certainly the case this week and I believe this program has quite a bright future here in the Beehive State. As the National Project Director, I can assert that this certainly makes administering this program and being a productive program incubator so much easier and more enjoyable when you have a cohesive unit that already has a vision for delivering MyPI. Utah teens, families, and communities are in for a treat on multiple levels due to the work of these great professionals and preparedness advocates. Much like their colleagues across the nation, the instructors in Utah truly exude a passion to change lives and to educate their communities, particularly their teens, through this program. It was indeed a pleasure for the MyPI National team to be able to spend some time in South Jordan. This initial cohort of instructors and Dr. Michael Pate, the MyPI Utah Program Manager, will prove to be a great asset for our overall program goals and will guide the program with the motivation and zest that we have come to expect and that our program and stakeholders demand. We are excited about this great partnership with Utah State University Extension, and we are already seeing a developing relationship between the program and the instructors. We look forward to seeing the program become a state-wide outreach campaign. It was quite clear among the National team members that once MyPI Utah takes root, it will progress and flourish in large part because of their efforts and dedication.”

According to Pate, “Getting USU Extension involved was vital for this program to be successfully established. USU Extension’s reputation, community rapport, and excellent faculty speak volumes. Our communities trust USU Extension for accurate and reliable educational programming. USU Extension currently has Emergency Preparedness Programs as well as 4-H Youth Programs. As a youth program, MyPI offered a synergistic opportunity to deliver this critical emergency preparedness training between the two program efforts.”

The MyPI model offers a flexible and comprehensive, three-component program. In Component A, teenagers will complete the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency-certified 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 opportunities 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, a school safety/active shooter awareness program, an extreme weather awareness program, a human trafficking program, a public health awareness and mitigation program, 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.

Pam Van Wagoner, Program Coordinator for USU Extension in Salt Lake County, and a newly certified MyPI Utah Instructor, believes in the importance of teens engaging in community preparedness as a means of enhancing individual, family, and community preparedness. According to Van Wagoner, “MyPI will be a great benefit to Salt Lake County. Youth will develop emergency response, decision making and leadership skills. They will become engaged in the community as they develop the skills they need to help themselves and their neighbors in emergency situations. Additionally, youth participating in MyPI will become partners in preparing households in their community for emergency situations through the Prep+6 service project. Through this portion of the program, each youth will assist a minimum of seven households in developing an emergency kit and family communication plan. Perhaps the greatest benefit to the emergency management and first responder communities will be the increased preparedness that is brought to the community. As youth complete their Prep+6 service projects, the community will be better prepared for personal emergencies and natural disasters. This will reduce the strain on the emergency management system as households in our community become more self-reliant.”

Craig Dart, Assistant Director Utah 4-H and a newly certified MyPI Utah Instructor agrees with Van Wagoner. According to Dart, “Teens are valuable underutilized resources. Despite what some may think about the Millennial generation, they have a lot to offer and want to contribute, serve, and help their communities. MyPI Utah is a perfect program to train youth in how to be engaged in the community in a meaningful way while learning leadership and life skills and helping the community at the same time. MyPI Utah is also a great way to expose youth to potential career pathways in search and rescue, the fire service, law enforcement, medical fields, and other disaster response-related careers. I also love that MyPI has a meaningful service component. Each youth completes the PREP + 6 service project. This project requires each participant to develop an emergency communication plan and an emergency response kit with their own family and six others. What a great way to learn gratitude and serve others.”

Dart was initially attracted to the program as an educator because MyPI provides valuable networking opportunities, life skills, career exploration, and especially the focus on individual, family, and community preparation. “I think most industries are having a difficult time attracting youth into their respective fields. There seems to be a shortage of educators, pilots, air traffic controllers, law enforcement, and anything related to retail or the food industry. I believe this program can open a pathway for young people to the many opportunities related to public safety-related fields. The program outcomes make all the work worth the time and effort. MyPI has won multiple national awards for its effectiveness in helping youth learn leadership, decision making, confidence and other life skills,” added Dart.

Stephanie Carlson, Assistant Professor with Utah State University Extension, and another new MyPI Utah Instructor in Weber County believes in MyPI’s ability to enhance individual, family, and community preparedness and resilience. According to Carlson, “MyPI engages youth in a training program which teaches leadership skills, provides real-life emergency response experiences, and involves them in community service by helping families become prepared for emergencies. By attending the course, youth are better able to prepare for and respond to emergencies in a confident, calm, circumspect manner. Their increased knowledge and community involvement regarding preparedness is instrumental in preparing families and communities for emergencies. MyPI teaches disaster preparedness, search and rescue, fire suppression, first aid, CPR, emergency response team organization, HAM radio communication and more. The knowledge and skills gained are instrumental in fostering individual, family, and community preparedness and resilience. MyPI also teaches teens leadership, team building, and critical skills required to assist others. The information learned and hands-on experiences build confidence and self-esteem in our young people which is so valuable in our world. To all teens considering taking the course, TAKE IT! You will learn about emergency preparedness, participate in amazing emergency response activities, acquire skills needed in the event of an emergency, meet great people, build friendships, and have fun.”

Yvette Rea is a Create Better Health Ambassador and Family Wellness Program Coordinator in Duchesne County and a new MyPI Utah Instructor, and strongly believes that MyPI can enhance individual, family, and community preparedness as well as youth preparedness. According to Rea, “It is so important that we teach our youth about emergency preparedness. Bringing MyPI to Utah is bringing a sense of belonging and more opportunities to our underserved population, especially in rural communities that have little to no resources when it comes to natural disasters. I love that this initiative involves youth and teaches them life skills that can help them throughout their life. This program also stands out due to it being written in a way that teens can understand and implement. I would tell students that are considering taking this program that now is the time to act! We never know when a disaster can happen, they need to be prepared. I would tell them that when joining this group, they will meet new people and learn leadership skills that can help them in the future. I would also tell educators that this is a great program to teach. Not only will they be teaching young adults, but they may also be learning something new along the way.” Carlson agreed, “One of the greatest gifts you can give is sharing your knowledge to improve the lives of others. MyPI teaches many valuable skills, key to the strength and success of our youth. Being a MyPI instructor gives you the opportunity to make a significant difference in their lives and is rewarding and fun.”

The partners 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 Utah, including areas that the program will be delivered initially, please visit the MyPI Utah website at https://mypiutah.org and contact Dr. Michael Pate, MyPI Utah Program Manager at michael.pate@usu.edu or 485.797.0989. 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 Director at cra20@msstate.edu or 662.325.5914. You may also reference both programs on Facebook. Those profiles can be found by searching “My PI Utah” and “My PI National” respectively.