University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service partners with innovative national award-winning youth preparedness initiative, MyPI National

Fire Supression

MyPI KY instructors practice fire suppression

This week in Georgetown, Kentucky at the Scott County Extension Service office, the initial delegation of instructors within the Kentucky Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI Kentucky, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the nineteenth state to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to Dr. Mark Mains, the MyPI Kentucky Program Manager, and who serves as the Assistant Director for 4-H Youth Development for the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and State 4-H Program Leader, “I love the fact that MyPI helps empower teens to be leaders in their community. Teens are a vital resource that are often overlooked...this program recognizes what they can contribute and gives them the knowledge and tools they need to make a difference.” 

Added Mains, “Every time you turn on the news it seems like there is a new natural or man-made disaster being reported.  As an organization that focuses on youth and life skills development, it's our responsibility to ensure that our 4-H members are prepared to face the challenges ahead of them.  The MyPI model along with our instructors, partners, and community advocates enable success in that regard.  I'm excited to see how this will help our communities be better prepared in the event of an emergency.  Through this, we are empowering our teen leaders, we are showing that 4-H Youth Development is a vital part of the community, and we helping to better ensure the safety of our communities.” 

Over the next 16 months, MyPI Kentucky 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 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 now begun to see the same impact within our partners under the MyPI National umbrella.  As our MyPI National team works with MyPI Kentucky 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, “The motivation and enthusiasm for developing MyPI here in the Bluegrass State has been overwhelming.  To witness the ways in which these instructors have embraced youth preparedness has truly been inspiring.  I am looking forward to the work these instructors will do, the positive impact they will create, and to see how well they carry MyPI forward with respect to both the potential programmatic impact in the communities and program expansion throughout the state.”           

MyPI Kentucky 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 Kentucky, 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 IV where we have several programs and work with professionals who are geographically situated similar to each other.  Given their close proximity and that they share similar hazards and risks, we hope to see some networking between them moving forward.  I can confidently say that the MyPI Kentucky instructors have displayed fantastic levels of passion, engagement, and motivation that is characteristic of our most productive partners.  They certainly broke several social media records for MyPI National.  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.  Kentucky 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 Kentucky 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 Dr. Mark Mains, 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 University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, 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 Kentucky 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 Kentucky, 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, 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.

Tony Rose, Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development in Adair County, believes that Kentucky teens can be a powerful force-multiplier in preparedness efforts across the state.  According to Rose, “Teens are the future leaders of our communities and now is the time to help them develop their leadership skills.  This program will give the future leaders of tomorrow a chance to start leading today. MyPI Kentucky will help them develop their leadership skills and help them better prepare our communities, families and individuals for future emergencies.” 

Rose 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.  “To students considering becoming a MyPI student, understand that you will be empowered and will have your change to help get your community and your families and neighbors better prepared for future emergencies and disasters.  Through the model and curriculum, this program provides an excellent opportunity to help better develop your leadership skills and help prepare you for your future endeavors.” 

Jeremiah Johnson, Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development in Christian County, is among the newly certified MyPI Kentucky instructors, agrees with Rose in that the program truly gives students opportunities to make a positive, measurable impact on their communities and helps prepare families and youth for the future.  According to Johnson, “The PREP+6 capstone service project within MyPI will give Kentucky families an opportunity to be more prepared when disaster strikes and will create exponential growth in community preparedness.  Through this project, Kentucky youth are learning valuable life skills by communicating things that they are learning in the program to families and helping them become better prepared.”  Johnson recalled distinct memories of the September 11th terrorist attacks and the feelings of being unprepared if an attack occurred in Kentucky.  Added Johnson, “As a youth, growing up beside a military base, I remember September 11, 2001.  At the time it happened, we were all upset and concerned that Ft. Campbell could be hit next.  I remember the next few days at school, teachers talking about being ready in case something happens, but there wasn't really a centralized effort of what we needed to have to be ‘ready’.  I believe if this program had been around then, people in our community would feel a little better at least knowing if something happened, they were somewhat prepared.”

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.   David McGill, Harlan County Emergency Management Director, indicated that MyPI is a proven model that has tremendous potential to positively impact preparedness on the individual, family, and community level by uniquely engaging, enabling, and empowering teens through life skills development and disaster preparedness skillsets that will help them take care of themselves, their peers, and their family members in everyday life and in the event of a disaster or emergency. According to McGill, “With this program, we will be educating individuals that are out in the public frequently and who may see things that the average first responder potentially may not. These fresh eyes will be able to recognize emergency situations and alert emergency officials appropriately. In addition, these preparedness-inspired teens potentially could reach an audience that emergency officials may not for various reasons, which could lend itself well to preparing a wider range of the community.  Additionally, by engaging the younger generation in emergency preparedness and encouraging them to take on leadership roles of teaching others and spreading the word, this may inspire them to become involved in volunteering in emergency services and/or to seek a career in emergency services.”

Dominique Wood, an Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development in Livingston County, is also a newly certified MyPI Kentucky instructor.  According to Wood, “Livingston County is a unique county in that it surrounded by waterways and dams. Two main bridges connect the county seat to the rest of the county.  Like most counties in western Kentucky, Livingston County lies in an earthquake vulnerable zone.  Emergency preparedness and situational awareness will increase the chance of survival of our citizens in the event of a disaster.  By engaging our teens in MyPI Kentucky, these youth will prove to be asset to the community. These youth in MyPI will gain leadership experience and increase personal belonging to their community through their investment of time and knowledge gained with these families."

Wood was particularly intrigued about how MyPI can positively impact individual, family, and community preparedness as well as youth development and encourages other adults with similar passions for preparedness and mentoring teens to consider becoming a MyPI instructor as well.  “MyPI Kentucky empowers our teens with the skills and knowledge to help their families and neighbors to prepare for emergencies. The program will identify our program teens as community leaders and get them invested in their community. The pride and purpose the program will give our teens life and survival skills that they will use for the rest of their lives. The youth in this program will make critical community connections that will enhance their sense of belonging to Livingston County that is so desperately lacking. The volunteers that are trained in this program will exponentially enhance the partnerships between 4-H, community leadership, emergency management, fire, and emergency medicine.  In western Kentucky, emergency management personnel attrition is increasing.  MyPI Kentucky will attract youth into the emergency management fields by making key connections with emergency management professionals and engaging them in leadership opportunities/service learning within their community.  These youth will discover opportunities in emergency management and first responder careers,” added Wood, “this is program is equally important to our volunteer instructors as well.”

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 Kentucky, including areas of the state that the program will be delivered initially, please visit the MyPI Kentucky website at or contact Dr. Mark Mains, MyPI Kentucky Program Manager at or 859.218.0989.  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 Kentucky” and “My PI National” respectively, and Twitter feeds can be found by searching “@MyPI_KY” and “@MyPI_National”.