Alabama Cooperative Extension System partners with innovative national award-winning youth preparedness initiative, MyPI National

Fire Supression

MyPI AL instructors practice fire suppression

This week in Auburn, AL at the Center for Advancement of Science, Innovation, and Commerce at Auburn University, the initial delegation of instructors within the Alabama Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI Alabama, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the seventeenth state to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to Dr. Molly Gregg, the MyPI Alabama Program Manager and Alabama Cooperative Extension System Program Administrator, “MyPI empowers teenagers to become active participants in making their households and their communities safer.  When the opportunity presented itself to join this national program with multiple accolades, I jumped at it.  This is a proven program that applies a comprehensive preparedness focus through curriculum and service and provides Alabama teens with extraordinary exposure to preparedness and leadership building skills as well as the ability to engage in the community preparedness efforts.”  Added Gregg, “MyPI enables our youth by providing education on the proactive steps they can take to address potential threats and hazards.”     

Over the next 11 months, MyPI Alabama 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 Alabama instructors over the next 11 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, “As a professional concerned with preparedness, of course, knowing that more people will now be better prepared in my neighboring state is a great feeling and one I take a lot of pride in.  From a personal standpoint, I have several family members who live here, so I am overjoyed that they will see the impact of that this three-time national award-winning program will bring.  I am looking forward to seeing MyPI Alabama grow and flourish here in this beautiful state, and I have no doubt that it will.”                    

MyPI Alabama 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 Alabama, 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 Southeast, working with professionals who are geographically situated similar to where the program began.  As a result, they see the same hazards and risks that we do in Mississippi.  I can confidently say that the MyPI instructors in Alabama 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.  Alabama 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 Alabama 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 Alabama.  This initial cohort of instructors and Dr. Gregg, 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 Alabama Cooperative Extension System 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 Alabama 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 Alabama, 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.   

Maggie Smith, who serves as a 4-H Agent Assistant in Elmore County, is among the newly certified MyPI Alabama instructors and will soon be delivering the program locally.  According to Smith, “The more teens that we can prepare to work with our community leaders in an emergency situation, the more our communities will be prepared for disasters.  As such, MyPI certainly is a program that can assist in bridging the gap between our youth and the leaders in our communities.  Our youth are the leaders of tomorrow and 4-H wants them to have this knowledge and these skillsets so that they can apply them and assist their communities when needed.  MyPI is a wonderful opportunity for our teens to learn and develop skills related to disaster preparedness, civic responsibility, and leadership.  Disasters and emergency situations are occurring at an alarming rate, and this program will help them be more prepared, thus enabling them to help themselves, their families, and their communities.”

Lisa Jones, Jefferson County Extension Coordinator for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, believes that Alabama teenagers should not be underestimated.  According to Jones, “Teens have a tremendous capacity to serve their families and communities by becoming better prepared to respond to emergencies and disasters and by advocating that others are better prepared as well.  This program provides a great opportunity to serve, grow, and lead.  Not only does the program trust young people to contribute in a meaningful way, but it also has the potential to launch a student on a path of public service or first response as a career.”  Added Jones, “Our teens are smart and capable.  With the completion of MyPI, our students will be better equipped to make a difference for their families and friends in the event of an emergency or disaster.”        

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.  LeighAnn Butler, an Emergency Management Specialist in Talladega County, indicated that the program is primed to benefit communities through its comprehensive curriculum.  According to Butler, “MyPI is a program that incorporate the CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) curriculum, certified by the US Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.  CERT educates volunteers about disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area.  It also trains them in basic disaster response skillsets that will be beneficial when emergencies and disasters occur.”  Added Butler, “MyPI reinforces the fact that first responders may not be able to get to you or to a certain area immediately, and helps them understand and know what to do for themselves and their family until first responders do arrive.  Anytime we can get people thinking about all the different scenarios, the consequences of those, and the ‘what ifs’, we have a great opportunity to teach them about being better prepared.  This program provides that opportunity.” 

Gavin Mauldin, Coffee County Extension Coordinator, and Donna Shanklin, Lawrence County Extension Coordinator, are also newly certified MyPI Alabama instructors.  Mauldin stated, “Coffee County has faced numerous natural disasters in the past.  MyPI is a fantastic program that will help prepare and educate our teenagers on how to prepare for the risks and hazards they face as well as provide the basic skills to help them render aid prior to first responder arrival.  MyPI also engages youth in their community and enhances their leadership skills.  By preparing and educating youth, they in turn can educate their family members, neighbors, and community, and can ease the burden of the first responder community by becoming assets.  By being better prepared, communities can mitigate damage during a disaster and become more resilient.” 

Mauldin strongly encourages adults to consider becoming a MyPI Alabama instructor.  “While it is a comprehensive program, the education and applied skillsets are incredibly valuable to both students and instructors alike.  I would invite anyone with an interest in mentoring youth or an interest in disaster education to consider being an instructor in the program.”  Shanklin agreed with Mauldin’s assertion and encouragement of future instructors in the program.  “Teens are an integral part of our communities and getting them involved through disaster preparedness helps them become better citizens and community leaders.  As adults, it is incumbent about us to foster that engagement.  MyPI Alabama is a great opportunity to gain valuable skillsets that can be transferred to our youth, which impacts their personal development too.  The program helps created a more engaged youth population by providing them with a purpose and finite goals.  That is one of the aspects of the program that attracts me the most as an educator.  MyPI provides our teens with an opportunity to receive hands-on training and to undertake a fantastic community serve project where each student in the program works with seven households to prepare an emergency supply kit and a family communication plan.  As an instructor, you will be the catalyst for positive change and impact.”    

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 Alabama, including areas of the state that the program will be delivered initially, please visit the MyPI Alabama website at http://mypialabama.org or contact Dr. Molly Gregg, MyPI Alabama Program Manager at greggmh@aces.org or 334-844-2263.  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 Alabama” and “My PI National” respectively, and Twitter feeds can be found by searching “@MyPI_AL” and “@MyPI_National”.