University of Delaware Cooperative Extension and Delaware 4-H partner with innovative national award-winning youth preparedness initiative, MyPI National

Instructors practice fire supression

MyPI DE instructors practice fire supression

This week in Harrington, Delaware, the initial delegation of instructors within the Delaware Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI Delaware, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the twenty third state to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to C. Douglas Crouse, the MyPI Delaware Program Manager, and who serves as the Delaware 4-H State Program Leader for the University of Delaware, “In 4-H, we are in the business of developing our youth to be strong, confident and productive citizens in their community.  The important information and education that is provided to the youth through the MyPI initiative allows them to be a catalyst in a culture change of being knowledgeable about emergency preparedness in order to be to handle any type of disaster that might occur, and then to also be in a position to share this information with others in their community.  As the State 4-H Program Leader, I strongly feel that MyPI allows us to be able to teach youth in Delaware 4-H important information and life skills related to emergency preparedness.  In addition, I strongly believe that without the development of the National MyPI program, and its availability to other State 4-H Programs, this would not be information we would have the ability to train and share with our youth.”

Added Crouse, “The 4-H program provides the opportunity to youth to learn many life skills that they can use in their future lives.  The MyPI program increases the opportunity for additional life skills that youth can learn to assist them in being informed and prepared in the area of emergency preparedness.  This will allow them to be active participants in their community to not only help themselves, but also help many others with whom they can share this important knowledge.”  

Over the next 20 months, MyPI Delaware 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. “The underlying missions of MyPI National are 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 many 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 Delaware 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, “I find it interesting that the ‘Last’ state that we visit this year is the ‘First State’.  I have enjoyed seeing just how beautiful Delaware is and how genuine the people are here.  But what I have enjoyed the most is seeing the enthusiasm of the men and women who will be the first of many MyPI instructors in Delaware.  I am confident in their abilities to deliver this four-time national award-winning youth preparedness program to teens across the First State and seeing the fruits of their work lead to increased individual, household, and community preparedness along with increased leadership skills and characteristics in these youth.”                      

MyPI Delaware 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 Delaware, 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 III, where we have been looking to increase our programmatic footprint.  I can confidently say that the MyPI Delaware 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.  Delaware 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 Delaware 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 Doug Crouse, the MyPI Delaware 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 Delaware 4-H and the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, and we are already seeing a developing relationship between the program and the Delaware Emergency Management Agency.  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 Delaware 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 Delaware, 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/active shooter awareness 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.   

Mei Johnson, Delaware Citizen Corps Program Manager with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency and a MyPI Delaware Instructor, believes that Delaware teens need to be involved in a comprehensive program like MyPI in order to realize their potential and enhance whole community preparedness.  According to Johnson, “MyPI is a great program strengthening the culture of preparedness in Delaware, and we are very excited for MyPI to be in Delaware, where our teens will be engaging in preparedness and investing in a meaningful and critical way in their communities.  There is an education and preparedness gap between elementary and middle schoolers who are very familiar with fire safety and adults who may learn emergency preparedness and response skills through their jobs.  MyPI is an invaluable bridge – tapping into the enthusiasm, energy, motivation, and brain power of teens. The more people who are knowledgeable and prepared, the greater our capacity as residents of Delaware to be meet, respond to, and recover from a disaster.  We are incredibly grateful that University of Delaware (UD) Cooperative Extension took the initiative to bring MyPI National Program to Delaware through the UD 4H Program.”

Johnson strongly encourages students to take advantage of this beneficial program due to the plentiful leadership opportunities to better their communities through the service component and the educational opportunities related to preparedness and resilience, so vital in today’s world of seemingly constant risks and hazards.  According to Johnson, “Youth preparedness is incredibly important for teens on a personal level, and it is an enormous strength for their communities – however community is defined for them (ex: geographical, church, family, friends, etc.).  Unfortunately, we no longer have the luxury of saying ‘it can’t / won’t happen here,’ ‘our kids will never experience this’ or ‘our kids don’t know about that’.”  Often, kids and teens are the FIRST to know.  We live in a world that is wonderful, but it can also be incredibly scary.  Participating in, learning from, and engaging with MyPI can help reduce the anxiety through knowledge and training to prepare them in an age-appropriate way.  They are the zero responder for when they are with their friends at a sporting event, visiting family for the holidays, hanging out at the mall, or spending a day on the boardwalk at the beaches.”

Added Johnson, “The advantages of encouraging teens to put their full energy behind preparing themselves and their communities are numerous.  Exposing them to and getting them engaged with these preparedness topics encourages them to be aware of look up, look around, and invest in themselves and their communities.  The ripple effect of the PREP + 6 component is phenomenal, and the opportunity for the teens to exercise self-responsibility, exercise ownership, and practice leadership skills is invaluable.  They will hopefully take these ‘soft-skills’ beyond this program and apply them in their lives in general.”

Kristin Cook, 4-H Educator and MyPI Instructor in Kent County, agrees with Johnson.  According to Cook, “The days of ‘it won’t happen to me’ have passed and now is the time to recognize that everyone has the responsibility to prepare for potential emergencies.  The MyPI program trains teens to address this topic.  Teens offer a unique opportunity to change the culture of our communities by leading preparedness conversations to help family and neighbors enhance their preparedness strategies and plans.  The part of MyPI that I think is most valuable is the leadership skills that youth gain as they complete the program and work towards graduation.  By preparing youth to face adverse situations, these skills will follow them into adulthood.  MyPI not only benefits the teens directly but also creates an opportunity for teens to provide support and guidance to fellow community members.” 

Cook strongly encourages teens and adults alike to become involved in MyPI.  “For our teens, MyPI is a well-designed, inclusive program, and is a great way to help your neighbors in time of need, build disaster response knowledge, improve personal leadership skills, network and build connections, explore related career areas and give back to the community.  But for our adults as well, the learning opportunities exist for you as well.  Similarly, the program offers plentiful mentoring opportunities that can truly be life-changing for all involved,” added Cook.

Wayne Kling, a retired Materials Engineer with the Delaware Department of Transportation, is also among the newly certified MyPI Delaware instructors and agrees with Cook.  According to Kling, “We need to encourage and help foster a culture of helping our communities by increasing the knowledge of practical life-skills of our youth who can exercise that knowledge by first improving the survival chances of their families and neighbors.  Teens that want to better themselves, be valuable resources to their families and friends, and help make a positive impact in their communities, should apply to MyPI and experience all the benefits that it has to offer.  Similarly, for adults interested in being a part of the program, if you enjoy working with youth, the future leaders of our communities, consider becoming an advocate of the program or even an instructor.  You can work with a great group of educators and mentors, and help our youth learn these valuable life-saving skills and become responsible and giving citizens.” 

While MyPI is not exclusive to only 4-H programs and students, MyPI National enlists the assistance of 4-H programs, personnel, among others, in delivering the program due to their passion for working with youth, their subject matter expertise, and the youth-related connections, networks, and access that already exist.  Additionally, the programmatic content is central to the 4-H mission of engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development.  Ernesto Lopez, State 4-H Volunteer Specialist, understands the critical connection between 4-H youth development and MyPI, and how MyPI benefits youth, families, and communities as a whole.  “It's hard to think of a more important piece of knowledge to have then a sound understanding of disaster and emergency preparedness.  Knowing what to do and how to do it, in addition to having confidence and competence to lead in difficult times, is so vitally important, especially for our youth,” noted Lopez, “In terms of individual, family, and community preparedness and resilience, the benefits of this program are intently focused on the fact that our youth, who are future first-responders, community and government leaders, get hands-on practical experience with a body of knowledge that a tremendous amount of financial and intellectual capital are invested in every year across our country.  Placing that knowledge and ability in their hands is a further investment in the future safety of our communities.  It is incumbent upon us as Extension 4-H educators to understand that MyPI is a natural extension of the work we already do in risk management.  If we don't focus on keeping our youth and families safe, we don't have a 4-H program.  Learning more tools to effectively make this happen and in turn, sharing that with our youth, is part of who we are in 4-H and what we practice every day.  This program enables that learning and practical experience that builds leadership skills and can save lives.  For example, the PREP+6 capstone service project within MyPI, takes the knowledge gained within the program to a very personal level that empowers youth to act and embraces communities within the context of preparedness and resilience.”   

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 Delaware, including areas of the state that the program will be delivered initially, please visit the MyPI Delaware website at or contact C. Douglas Crouse, MyPI Delaware Program Manager at or 302.831.2997.  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 Delaware” and “My PI National” respectively, and Twitter feeds can be found by searching “@MyPI_DE” and “@MyPI_National”.