New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management partners with innovative national award-winning youth preparedness initiative, MyPI National

Instructors practice cribbing

MyPI NM instructors practice cribbing

This week in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the New Mexico Scientific Laboratories, the initial delegation of instructors within the New Mexico Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI New Mexico, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the twenty second state to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to Jeremy Cuddeback, the MyPI New Mexico Program Manager, and who serves as a Local Preparedness Coordinator and State Citizen Corps Coordinator for the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, “Working with the youth and empowering them to be preparedness advocates for their families, neighbors, and communities is a critical foundation for building and sustaining a culture of preparedness.  Soon after starting my work as the State Citizen Corps Coordinator, I was looking for ways to build and expand volunteer engagement in Citizen Corps programs. The more I learned about MyPI, I knew that this program would make a tremendous impact in New Mexico.”

Added Cuddeback, “The MyPI model is the best way to build a culture of preparedness and build resilience across New Mexico. When disaster strikes, our local New Mexico communities’ resources often become quickly overwhelmed. Through Community Emergency Response Team Training, the youth participating in this program have the potential to become force multipliers to help a community respond to and recover from a disaster. The add-on catalog helps the teens to become aware of potential career paths in emergency services and can lead to a growth in our local resources that are often in short supply.  The CERT training and the add-on catalog will have a huge impact on their own. However, in my opinion, the most important aspect of MyPI is the Prep+6 service project. Households that are aware and prepared to be self-reliant after a disaster will make the community at large more resilient. Prep+6 helps to prepare not only the participants’ own household, but they go out and help prepare six other households. This means that every 125 participants in MyPI will prepare 875 households to be ready for a disaster.”

Over the next 18 months, MyPI New Mexico will be offering this innovative and engaging youth preparedness program to teens who will assist families and communities in a variety of locations throughout the state.  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. “One of the underlying missions of MyPI National is to reboot youth preparedness across this country, 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, emergencies and disasters do not discriminate.  We have seen fantastic success for several years in Mississippi and have begun to see the same impact within our partners under the MyPI National umbrella.  As our MyPI National team works with MyPI New Mexico 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 this great state and its citizens, families, and communities deserve,” said Dr. C. Ryan Akers, MyPI National Project Director and MyPI Mississippi Program Coordinator. 

Mississippi Citizen Corps State Program Manager and Lead Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Instructor for MyPI National, Dave Nichols, added, “Returning to the Southwest and installing MyPI here in the Land of Enchantment has been a rewarding experience both personally and professionally.  This group of instructors has bought into the concept of youth preparedness, wrapped around a youth leadership context, in a great way.  Having the endorsement of the New Mexico State Citizen Corps Program Manager should help to ensure this program is here for many years.”                      

MyPI New Mexico is a component of the National Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI National, a partnership of 29 states and 3 US territories.  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 began 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.  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 Alaska, California, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, South Carolina, Iowa and two more US territories to be represented, the US Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Regarding New Mexico, Akers stated, “Our MyPI National Coordination team has literally travelled to all corners of the nation with this project.  This week, we were back in FEMA Region VI, where we have seen program success already.  I can confidently say that the MyPI New Mexico instructors have displayed fantastic levels of passion, engagement, and motivation that is characteristic of our most productive partners.  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.  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.  New Mexico 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 New Mexico 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 here in this beautiful state.  This initial cohort of instructors and Jeremy Cuddeback, the MyPI New Mexico Program Manager, 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 and that our program and stakeholders demand.  We are excited about this great partnership with the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and we look forward to seeing the program become a true statewide outreach campaign.  It was quite clear among the National team members that once MyPI New Mexico takes root, it will progress and flourish 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 New Mexico, 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 this state.  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 and will continue to work with the instructors, the Program Manager, and community partners to ensure its success over the long-term.”     

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 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 program, an extreme weather awareness 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.   

Celia Donofrio, Emergency Management Specialist for the City of Clovis/Curry County and a MyPI New Mexico Instructor, believes that New Mexico teens need to be involved in a comprehensive program like MyPI in order to realize their potential.  According to Donofrio, “In our county, we have a shortage of first responders. If there is a critical incident/disaster in our area or an event that needs manning, teenagers that are trained in preparedness and response would be a great asset in helping first responders and could help people until first responders arrive. MyPI New Mexico will bring further training as well as help our youth explore career paths in this field if they decide they might like to be a first responder of some kind.  One of the program features that attracted me the most is that it teaches the youth that they are not helpless or hopeless if a disaster happens in their life or in their community.  The program empowers them to become a part of the solution, teaches them that they have a role in preparedness and resilience.  They can take their lessons learned and new leadership attributes with them across their lifespans.”

Donofrio strongly encourages students to take advantage of this beneficial program due to the plentiful opportunities to better their communities through the service component and the educational opportunities related to preparedness and resilience.  Additionally, Donofrio recognizes the advantage of the program’s built-in career track.  “Not only will students learn how to help themselves and others, MyPI will open doors to them that could lead to a career if they find that they like what they are doing with MyPI. The program sheds lights on many different fields that are related to first responders and emergency management and it allows students to learn from the best that actually perform these vital roles and functions within their communities,” added Donofrio.

Rachel Bingham, a Healthcare Training and Exercise Coordinator and MyPI Instructor in Santa Fe County, agrees with Donofrio.  According to Bingham, “This program will help teens learn to work as a team and enhances leadership characteristics by building strong decision making and communication skills, not to mention also provides them with life-saving skill sets and a strong preparedness foundation.  Additionally, participation and graduation from the program would look good on a college and/or job application.”

Michael Ogas, who serves as High School teacher and Health Occupational Students of America (HOSA) Advisor in Doña Ana County, is among the newly certified MyPI New Mexico instructors and agrees with Bingham.  “MyPI builds strong content awareness and applicable skills for our teens by preparing them for situations they may not have thought they would find themselves in. This, in turn, can help their households become more prepared to survive natural disasters or simply to just protect their homes by having the ability to put out a small house fire. By taking part in the PREP+6 service project, students are actively going to their community to build disaster kits, which can provide a strong domino effect of enhancing community preparedness and resilience while having intrinsic rewards for our teens by showing them the impact they can have in their communities.” 

Ogas believes that MyPI New Mexico’s engaging approach will certainly enhance individual, family, and community preparedness and youth leadership.  “The PREP+6 service project sends students out into their communities to help build disaster kits and family communication plans for their neighbors and extended family neighbors.  Completion of this project can have a direct impact on these students by feeling a sense of empowerment in helping others. The project also gives them a sense responsibility in teaching them that we are all responsible for each other when disaster comes,” added Ogas.   

Ogas also encourages adults interested in mentoring and educating teens to become certified as a MyPI Instructor.  Ogas added, “As teachers, we are constantly looking to find content that students can relate to and apply in their daily lives.  The comprehensive MyPI program and curriculum content explores situations we all see every day. This program helps to impact not only our students but their families and their neighbors.  Again, as teachers, we all want to make a positive impact on our students, and we want to see them improve as individuals and go on to lead healthy lives and positively impact their communities and the world.  This program is certainly one that can lead to the positive results that we want to see in them and for them.  I would strongly encourage my peers and colleagues to become a part of the foundation of MyPI.” 

The program not only relies on its trained instructor cohort, but it also enlists the assistance and advocacy of the first responder and emergency management communities.   Sarah Gillen, Emergency Manager, Valencia County Fire Department - Office of Emergency Management, indicated that while MyPI will indeed have a strong positive impact on youth leadership characteristics along with individual, household, and community preparedness, it can also assist in response and recovery as well in a variety of ways.  According to Gillen, “MyPI could potentially benefit Valencia County as a whole in terms of being able to help in more of the recovery efforts and shelter management and operations and can aid in building a more resilient community in times of emergency and disaster.”

Gillen was attracted to the comprehensive and engaging nature of the program and became interested in installing a local cohort in Valencia County when recognizing both that teens are a large untapped resource in community preparedness and resilience and the fact that MyPI focuses on preparedness of the whole community.  According to Gillen, “MyPI aligns with the concept of Whole Community preparedness included in the National Response Framework (NRF).  Not only will our teens be fully engaged in the lessons of the program, but they, along with their instructors, will also be working with their parents, family members, neighbors, among others, to enhance whole community preparedness and resilience.  The term ‘Whole Community’ includes individuals and families, including those with access and functional needs; businesses; faith-based and community organizations; nonprofit groups; schools and academia; media outlets; and all levels of government, including state, local, and tribal.”

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 New Mexico, including areas of the state that the program will be delivered initially, please visit the MyPI New Mexico website at or contact Jeremy Cuddeback, MyPI New Mexico Program Manager at or 505.476.0607.  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 New Mexico” and “My PI National” respectively, and Twitter feeds can be found by searching “@MyPI_NM” and “@MyPI_National”.