Oregon State University Extension Service partners with innovative national award-winning youth preparedness initiative, MyPI National

Fire Supression

MyPI OR instructors practice fire suppression

This week in Hood River, Oregon at the Hood River County Extension Service office, the initial delegation of instructors within the Oregon Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI Oregon, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the eighteenth state to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to Lynette Black, the MyPI Oregon Program Manager and Oregon 4-H State Specialist for the Oregon State University Extension Service, “MyPI is not just a program that prepares young people ages 13-19 for disasters, including the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.  It also teaches the skills needed to work well in a team and to be a leader.  In addition, the program includes a service learning component where youth help their friends, family, and neighbors prepare for unexpected events.  Finally, the comprehensive MyPI curriculum places a focus on technology in the preparedness field as well as first responder and emergency management career exploration.  All of these aspects fit right in with the goals of the 4-H Youth Development program.  The program will have a tremendous positive impact on teens and communities across Oregon.  Teamwork and leadership skills will be strengthened along with critical thinking and problem-solving skills.  Youth and their family, friends, and neighbors will be better prepared for disasters and the communal effort will help bring community members closer.  All of this can help lead to a more resilient community that is able to recover from a disaster.” 

Added Black, “Again, this program is positive youth development and meets the benchmarks for a 4-H program.  The association between 4-H and land-grant institutions across the country is well documented.  So MyPI is a perfect match for the Oregon State University Extension Service’s community education and outreach efforts.  OSU Extension Service is located in every county in the state.  We know the people of these counties, including the youth, and are well-positioned to assist in preparing these communities for disasters.”     

Over the next 9 months, MyPI Oregon 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, 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 now begun to see the same impact within our partners under the MyPI National umbrella.  As our MyPI National team works with MyPI Oregon instructors over the next 9 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 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, “Besides experiencing the obvious beauty of this state and its wonderful people, it has been exciting to see this group of passionate and motivated instructors embrace MyPI Oregon.  I have no doubt that they will do everything within their power to ensure this three-time, award-winning program will change lives and prepare families in Oregon.  I am looking forward to seeing MyPI Oregon grow and flourish here.”                    

MyPI Oregon is a component of the National Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI National, a partnership of 27 states and 2 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, and the second US territory to be represented, the US Virgin Islands.    

Regarding Oregon, 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 the Pacific Northwest, working with professionals who are geographically situated similar to one of our Phase 1 programs, MyPI Washington.  Given their close proximity and that they share similar hazards and risks, we hope to see some networking between the two moving forward.  I can confidently say that the MyPI Oregon 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.  Oregon 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 Oregon 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 Lynette Black, the 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 Oregon State University Extension Service and community advocates, and look forward to seeing the program become a true statewide outreach campaign.  It was quite clear among the National team members that once MyPI Oregon 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 Oregon, 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 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, 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.   

Ruth Dixon, who serves as a 4-H Educational Program Assistant in Curry County, is among the newly certified MyPI Oregon instructors and will soon begin delivering the program locally.  According to Dixon, “Our teens are capable of so much more than they are given credit for. We often neglect to include teens in disaster preparedness, and we tend overlook the fact that they have energy and vision that adults sometimes lack. MyPI Oregon provides an opportunity and the platform for youth preparedness and youth leadership to work in sync, strengthening our community.  Allowing teens to provide assistance to their community will create positive outcomes in many ways. As our youth develop leadership skills and share their knowledge of preparedness, their communities will become more aware of risks and the resources and strategies that can assist them. Parents are often more receptive to changing or adding new things when their child introduces or shows interest in it.  The program provides life skills and education that are invaluable in a format that doesn’t feel like ‘school’ and offers something ‘unique and different’ from other more common extracurricular outlets.  And the capstone leadership project that each student completes will provide an excellent ripple effect in the preparedness realm, enhancing individual, family, and community preparedness efforts throughout communities.”

Dixon also encourages other adults with similar passions to consider becoming a MyPI Instructor as well.  According to Dixon, “If you believe in the importance of preparedness and enjoy working and mentoring youth, MyPI provides you with everything you need for a successful outcome.  The program is designed to provide CERT training, leadership skills, and community outreach in one package, allowing the instructor flexibility in scheduling and the opportunity to add related topics.”

Amy Schmid, Administrative Program Specialist with 4-H in Tillamook County, believes that Oregon teenagers should not be overlooked or underestimated.  According to Schmid, “It is important for everyone to be prepared for emergencies and this includes our youth.  The problem is that many people, despite the risks, are simply not prepared.  The MyPI Oregon program will empower youth to help themselves, their families, and their communities become more prepared for emergencies and know what to do when they happen.”  Schmid strongly encourages students to take advantage of such a beneficial program.  “Not only will this program give you the knowledge and tools to be prepared for emergencies, but it will also give you a look at emergency and public safety careers.  And honestly, it can enhance college applications and opportunities for scholarships.  I am particularly attracted to the program’s leadership project that requires each student to work with seven families in enhancing preparedness efforts thereby extending the reach and impact of the program, while giving teens a leadership role in helping others in their community become disaster ready,” stated Schmid. 

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 community.   Jake Shores, an American Medical Response (AMR) Paramedic Operations Supervisor in Clackamas County, indicated that the program assists in changing the culture of preparedness by starting with teens in our communities.  After participating in this program, the life skills and leadership opportunities will enable them to grow up understanding the importance of preparedness and to be contributing members of a society that is better prepared for emergencies.  According to Shores, “Teens need an outlet to stay busy and focused on positive things in their lives.  MyPI students will impact their families by displaying leadership characteristics and showing other family members they can do things that positively impact their own family and others in their neighborhood.  This program, by sharing with others, contributes greatly to community resiliency, so much so that in the event of an emergency, our MyPI students and households are less of a burden on response personnel and are perhaps one less household that emergency personnel need to assist.”  Added Shores, “The PREP+6 service project spreads the preparedness message in a controlled manner that ensures that our MyPI students’ families and neighbors are more likely to be safe and secure prior to, during, and after a disaster.” 

Robin Gerber, a 27-year veteran 4-H volunteer in Union County, is also a newly certified MyPI Oregon instructor.  Gerber stated, “MyPI will give the youth in my community basic life skills, emergency preparedness strategies for themselves, their families, their communities, and a chance to really explore EMS and related career fields.  It will empower them to play an important role in their community, giving them a greater sense of self-worth and confidence.  I really like the fact that the program can be completed without placing a financial burden on the youth or their family.”  Gerber also believes that students and adults alike should strongly consider participating in the program.  According to Gerber, “Students considering this program are choosing to enhance their education and opening doors for their future.  They also become a great asset to their family, friends, and neighbors by becoming leaders and role models for their peers.  Similarly, to any adults considering becoming an instructor, this is a very worthwhile use of your time.  You are helping to create a culture of youth preparedness, youth service, and self-sufficiency in individuals and communities.  You will also be impacting the lives of teens in a positive and lasting way.  It may seem a bit daunting at first, but it really works.  The thorough nature of the program and the support structure that accompanies it makes is fantastic and very helpful.  You can be the catalyst for positive change on so many levels.”

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 Oregon, including areas of the state that the program will be delivered initially, please visit the MyPI Oregon website at http://mypioregon.org or contact Lynette Black, MyPI Oregon Program Manager at lynette.black@oregonstate.edu or 541.296.5494.  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 Director 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 Oregon” and “My PI National” respectively, and Twitter feeds can be found by searching “@MyPI_OR” and “@MyPI_National”.