University of Georgia Extension 4-H personnel and community volunteers partner with innovative national award-winning youth preparedness initiative, MyPI National

Fire Supression

MyPI GA instructors practice fire suppression

This week at the Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Eatonton, GA, the initial delegation of instructors within the Georgia Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI Georgia, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the ninth state to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to Keri Hobbs, 4-H Specialist for Volunteer Development for UGA Extension – Georgia 4-H, “With the goal of reaching at least 125 of Georgia’s youth through an intensive training and service project, UGA Extension faculty/staff and 4-H community volunteers from 8 counties have teamed to offer this teen preparedness initiative to support emergency response in their local communities – ultimately creating safer environments for youth and their families throughout our state and preparing teens for a potential career option in emergency response.”  Added Hobbs, “MyPI or My Preparedness Initiative, is a great addition to Georgia 4-H youth development offerings because it will proactively shape youth in our state for the unexpected – helping Georgia 4-H accomplish our mission of building self-directed, productive, and contributing members of society.  We are excited about the program and already envision program expansion outside of the initial 8 counties offering the program.” 

Over the next 18 months, MyPI Georgia 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 the underlying missions of MyPI National is to reboot youth preparedness 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 Georgia instructors over the next 18 months, we will continue the process of fostering relationships and networks that will hopefully ensure the success of MyPI Georgia 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, “As a long-time CERT instructor, it was nice to have another CERT instructor going through the entire MyPI Instructor Training.  He was able to validate why we incorporate CERT, and it was great to see him and the entire class get excited about the complete MyPI program and how it will benefit the youth and the entire population throughout the state of Georgia.  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 Georgia 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 Georgia, 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 Georgia instructors.  At the National level, it makes our job administering this program so much easier and more enjoyable when you have a cohesive unit that already has a vision for delivering MyPI.  Georgia 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 Eatonton, working hand in hand with the instructors and with the MyPI Georgia Program Coordinator during their comprehensive training.  We are excited about this great partnership with UGA Extension – Georgia 4-H along with its community volunteers.  I anticipate fantastic growth as MyPI Georgia 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 Georgia, 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 Georgia 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.   

Allie Griner, UGA Extension 4-H Agent in Gordon County, is among the newly certified MyPI Georgia instructors and will soon be delivering the program locally.  Griner’s message about the program is simple, “MyPI Georgia is a program that taps into the leadership potential of youth by delivering an innovative and engaging outreach model to teens across Georgia to help them better prepare and respond to emergencies that affect their families and communities.  Not only does it extensively prepare the individual youth in the program, the unique service component, PREP + 6 allows each student in the program to create a profound positive impact on community preparedness.  In order to graduate from the program, each student must assist seven total households with the development of emergency supply kits and family communication plans.  In essence, that means the initial 125 graduates of MyPI Georgia will have a direct impact on community preparedness by actively assisting 875 households in the initial 8 counties to create those supply kits and communication plans.” 

According to Jazmin Thomas, another newly certified MyPI Georgia instructor who serves as the UGA Extension 4-H Agent in Dougherty County, “MyPI is designed to deliver disaster preparedness education and training to our youth (our future).  If we can successfully educate our future on the importance of being prepared and they share that knowledge with friends and families, as they do in PREP + 6, we have then created a domino effect.  MyPI will engage teens and equip them with the skills to lead their communities in times of crises as well as share their abilities with others, thus building a stronger, more prepared and more resilient community.” 

The link between the MyPI National, respective land-grant institutions, youth serving agencies, and local/state emergency management is intentional and critical to the success of the program.  Griner added, “With numerous extreme weather and other critical incidents impacting our state each year, preparing our communities is a natural fit with the land-grant mission of UGA Extension that provides evidence-based education to local communities.  Georgia 4-H is the youth-focused area of UGA Extension and is the premiere youth development program in the state.  The education, leadership, and service components of MyPI align well with UGA Extension and Georgia 4-H in training youth leaders in emergency preparedness and empowering them to teach their families and others in their community about developing supply kits and communication plans.”  Thomas agrees, “UGA Extension and Georgia 4-H has over 100 years in youth development experience.  The mission of Georgia 4-H is to assist youth in acquiring knowledge, developing life skills, and forming attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, productive, and contributing members of society.  MyPI fosters these outcomes and helps us continue to carry out the mission of Georgia 4-H.”

As the program develops and grows throughout Georgia, MyPI fosters multiple local and state level partnerships with youth serving agencies, first responders, emergency management personnel, etc.  Bill Collins, Director of Public Safety for the City of Pembroke and Deputy Director of Bryan County Emergency Management, was also recently certified to deliver MyPI.  Collins believes that the program will empower youth to prepare themselves, their families, and communities.  According to Collins, “Having youth trained to be prepared to respond in case of disaster, increases our departments’ capacities, and allows us to respond to more critical needs.  It also gives youth the skillset they can use in their daily lives.  It will also prepare them and their families to be better prepared for emergencies and disasters.” 

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 Georgia, including areas of the state that the program will be delivered initially, please visit the MyPI Georgia website at http://mypigeorgia.org or contact Keri Hobbs, MyPI Georgia Program Coordinator at klgandy@uga.edu or 706-542-4H4H.  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 Georgia and My PI National respectively, and Twitter handles can be found by searching @MyPI_GA and @MyPI_National.