South Dakota State University Extension and community volunteers partner with innovative national award-winning youth preparedness initiative, MyPI National

Fire Supression

MyPI SD instructors practice fire suppression.

This week at the South Dakota State University Regional Extension Center in Sioux Falls, SD, the initial delegation of instructors within the South Dakota Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI South Dakota, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the twelfth state to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to John Keimig, the MyPI South Dakota Program Coordinator and 4-H Youth Extension Associate, “One of the initial attractions of this program for me was the opportunity to bring a tremendous leadership project to South Dakota, which will help increase capacity in our South Dakota teens.  I really believe that the biggest and most positive impact will be simply raising the awareness and capacity of teens in counties involved in this project.  When completed successfully, initially 875 households will have enhanced preparedness through the development of emergency supply kits and family communication plans.  Additionally, we will increase the capacity of 125 youth to be part of emergency efforts local to them until professional services arrive.  Added Keimig, “This is a two-time national award winning program that we are excited to offer to our teens, families, and communities.  The MyPI National Coordination Team did a tremendous job of preparing our instructors to go back and train our participants.”

Over the next 18 months, MyPI South Dakota 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, to capitalize on the energy of our youth, 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 that we continue to see on seemingly a daily basis.  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 South Dakota instructors over the next 18 months, 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 this great state and its citizens, families, 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, “I have been looking forward to this instructor certification workshop for quite some time.  Not only was seeing this wonderful South Dakota landscape a breathtaking experience for me personally, but seeing the excitement of these MyPI instructors was just as much of a thrill professionally as seeing this beautiful state.  I know that MyPI will have a profound impact on the teens of South Dakota when facing preparedness for winter storms and flooding to tornados and other extreme weather threats, these youth will be empowered to help their communities to become better prepared to face these types of disasters.”              

MyPI South Dakota 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 South Dakota, Akers stated, “Our National team has travelled to all ends of the nation with this project and I can confidently say that the MyPI instructors in South Dakota have displayed a level of passion, engagement, and motivation that is characteristic of our most productive partners.  At the National level, it certainly makes administering this program so much easier and more enjoyable when you have a cohesive unit that already has a vision for delivering MyPI.  South Dakota families and their 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 South Dakota truly exude a passion to change lives and to educate their communities, particularly their teens.  It was indeed a pleasure for the MyPI National team to be here this week.  The instructors and the Program Coordinator will prove to be a great asset for our overall program goals and will guide the state program with the motivation and zest that we have come to expect.  We are excited about this great partnership with South Dakota State University Extension and their volunteers.  I anticipate fantastic growth as MyPI South Dakota takes root, progresses and flourishes across the state in large part because of their efforts and dedication.”

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 South Dakota, 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 positive impact for all involved here and will continue to work with the instructors and the 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.   

Becca Tullar, who serves as the 4-H Youth Program Advisor for SDSU Extension in Brown County, is among the newly certified MyPI South Dakota instructors and will soon be delivering the program locally.  Tullar added, “MyPI South Dakota is a great opportunity for youth and adults alike.  For youth, they will be able to assist with their family and others in the community, build upon their decision-making and leadership skills, and learn how to understand threats and how to prepare for that.  For adults, you can help promote family cohesion, youth development, and help to instill civic responsibility and community engagement.  I would actively challenge youth and adults to participate in this program.  MyPI will help you to understand and become more prepared in case of an emergency.  The more we know, the better off we are.” 

According to Chuck Martinell, another newly certified MyPI South Dakota instructor who serves as the 4-H Youth Program Advisor in Minnehaha County for South Dakota State University Extension, “As we well know, disasters and emergencies can happen at any time and in any place, and especially to anyone. Teens that have undergone training in youth preparedness are more likely to be prepared for these events in their local area and will positively contribute to help themselves, their families, and their communities during a disaster or emergency. This program prepares teens to know what to do during an emergency or disaster. Teens that go through MyPI are prepared to take on challenges that will overwhelm many people and yet these youth are trained to do so using the skills they have learned. This program is more than just being given training in how to do CPR. Our teens learn about the different kinds of injuries, how to treat injuries, what to do before, during, and after a disaster, and how to help others prepare for a potential emergency or disaster.

Martinell stated that other adults wanting to serve as mentors and instructors for the program should contact the Program Coordinator.  “This is a fantastic opportunity to teach and mentor teens in a national award-winning program that not only provides enhanced youth leadership opportunities but also outstanding opportunities to impact individual, family, and community preparedness and resilience.”

As the program develops and grows throughout South Dakota, MyPI fosters multiple local and state level partnerships with youth serving agencies, first responders, emergency management personnel, etc.  Corporal Paul Pederson with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office is a certified MyPI South Dakota instructor and a strong advocate for the program.  According to Pederson who serves as a School Resource Officer, “For rural areas, this program is extremely important as professional resources may be 20 to 30 minutes from responding.  The program allows the students to prepare themselves, their families, and communities in the event of a disaster.  It empowers them to become leaders and prepare other families.  They also become a resource for the professional emergency community to place necessary resources where appropriate.  When the student has their own family prepared and shows the importance of being prepared to their neighbors and other community members, a larger part of the community is served.  This program encourages the students to be situationally aware, whether the incident is large or small scale.  After receiving the proper training, it gives them the confidence to assist in a situation.” 

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 South Dakota, including areas of the state that the program will be delivered initially, please visit the MyPI South Dakota website at or contact John Keimig, MyPI South Dakota Program Coordinator at or 605-688-5575.  For more information regarding MyPI National, please visit the MyPI National website at or contact Dr. Ryan Akers, MyPI National Project Director at or 662.325.5914.  You may also reference both projects on social media platforms.  Facebook profiles can be found by searching My PI South Dakota and My PI National respectively, and Twitter feeds can be found by searching @MyPI_SD and @MyPI_National.