Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia 4-H programs join innovative national youth preparedness partnership, MyPI National

Fire Supression

MyPI VA instructors practice fire suppression

This week at the W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center in Wirtz, VA, the initial delegation of instructors within the Virginia Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI Virginia, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the fourth state to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to Andy Seibel, Associate Extension Specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension and MyPI Virginia Program Coordinator, “MyPI Virginia is based upon a national award winning youth preparedness and youth leadership hybrid model that is going to allow Virginia 4-H members to implement emergency and disaster preparedness and response skillsets learned through an innovative curriculum that includes the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) curriculum developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/FEMA.  In addition to that curriculum and a substantial Add-on catalog, the service and leadership opportunities made possible by the PREP + 6 capstone service project further solidifies this comprehensive educational experience for our teens.  I am looking forward to seeing our local extension agents implement MyPI because the graduates are going to be able to utilize these skills throughout their lives.  Added Seibel, “Virginia is going to continue to have natural disasters and MyPI provides the training necessary for our program graduates to respond in kind to these emergencies and disasters, prior to first responder arrival.  The program also trains our teens for how to prepare for those emergencies and disasters and to mitigate against risks and hazards.  We appreciate the opportunity to partner with MyPI National and are already looking at opportunities for future funding to expand MyPI Virginia beyond the original five pilot counties where it will be offered.”

Over the next 12 months, MyPI Virginia will be offering an innovative and engaging youth preparedness program to approximately 125 teens and reaching approximately 875 families 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, strengthens youth leadership, communication skills, teamwork, decision making, self-esteem, civic responsibility, and empowerment, along with family communication and cohesion. “As our MyPI National team works with Andy and the rest of the instructors over the next 12 months, we will continue to foster relationships and networks that will hopefully ensure MyPI Virginia’s success for years to come, which is really what the youth and the great people of this state deserve,” said Dr. C. Ryan Akers, MyPI National and MyPI Mississippi Project Director.  Mississippi Citizen Corps State Program Manager and Lead CERT Instructor for MyPI National, Dave Nichols, added, “Seeing the enthusiasm of the Extension agents in Virginia has been a welcomed experience as a trainer.  It is very apparent that these future MyPI instructors have the necessary skillsets to deliver this national award winning program to the teens of the great state of Virginia.  Being such a large and diverse state, it is nice to know that the next generation will have basic skills to be able to deal with the various types of disasters that happen in and around where they live.  However, MyPI is so much more than just a preparedness program.  It also teaches service to the community and civic responsibility in the PREP + 6 service project.” 

MyPI Virginia is a component of the National Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI National, a partnership of eight pilot states delivering the MyPI curriculum to teenagers across Nebraska, Hawaii, New Jersey, Washington, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, and Mississippi.  Capitalizing on success and momentum, MyPI National recently received federal funding for a Phase 2 expansion of the program which enables the inclusion of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, South Dakota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, and the first U.S. Territory to be represented, Guam.  Regarding Virginia, Akers stated, “It was certainly our pleasure to work with a group of passionate professionals this week in Virginia and to install the first cohort of instructors for MyPI Virginia.  We are excited to partner with Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia 4-H and anticipate fantastic growth as MyPI Virginia progresses and flourishes across the state.  It is a fantastic, multi-faceted program that offers rich learning and leadership opportunities for teens and enhanced preparedness levels for families and communities across this great state.  The focus and energy displayed by this initial instructor cohort gives me great confidence as we move into the next phase of MyPI Virginia, where the real work is done. It is abundantly clear to everyone on my National Coordination Team that the instructors here 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.  We expect a profoundly positive impact for all involved here and will continue to work with the instructors and Andy Seibel, the MyPI Virginia Program Coordinator, to ensure its success.  On a side note, I was born in Virginia, so I have a personal desire that supports the professional motivation to see this program succeed.”

For students in the eight states, 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.  Scott Jerrell, who represents Scott County and Virginia Cooperative Extension as the Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent and Unit Coordinator, is one of a newly certified MyPI Virginia instructors.  “MyPI Virginia will give our teens the opportunity to learn valuable disaster preparedness skills, impacting them both personally and as part of the larger community.  The leadership skills they attain and the positive contributions they make to their communities in the capstone service project, PREP + 6, and the emergency response skillsets they learn and practice will impact them and others throughout their lives” noted Jerrell.  Fellow MyPI Virginia Instructor, Mike Parrish, agrees.  “MyPI provides youth with real and applicable skills and knowledge to respond to local disasters when requested by local officials.  This training also prepares them for response to personal emergencies and to assist family and friends with preparedness recommendations.  This program takes a relatively untapped resource in our teens and engages them in the individual, family, and community preparedness and response discussion.  This additional manpower can enable professional first responders to address tasks more efficiently and at the same time allows volunteers to support those responders’ overall efforts,” added Parrish, Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent and Unit Coordinator for the Dinwiddie County Extension Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension.

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 Virginia, including the areas of the state that the program will be delivered in the initial deliveries, please visit the MyPI Virginia website at mypivirginia.org or contact Andy Seibel, MyPI Virginia Program Coordinator at gseibel@vt.edu or 540-750-3962.  For more information regarding MyPI National, please visit the MyPI National website at 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 Virginia and My PI National respectively, and Twitter handles can be found by searching @MyPI_VA and @MyPI_National.