Missouri joins national youth emergency preparedness initiative

  • Published: Friday, May 24, 2019

COLUMBIA, Mo. – An initial delegation of MU Extension educators recently completed a three-day certification and training workshop for the Missouri Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI Missouri.

Conne Burnham, MU Extension state emergency management specialist, is the MyPI Missouri program manager. “I’ve been in the emergency management and emergency response field for many years and realize that there are not enough emergency responders to take care of everyone who may be affected by a disaster,” Burnham said. “The MyPI program gives educators the opportunity to train our youth in valuable skills that could help themselves, their families and their community survive until professional responders arrive.”

MyPI Missouri is sponsored by the Missouri 4-H Foundation and is being delivered through a partnership of MU Extension, Missouri 4-H, county extension offices and local partners.  

The program is a component of the National Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI National, a partnership of 27 states and two U.S. territories. The program is based on a national award-winning model delivered in Mississippi through the Mississippi State University Extension Service and Mississippi Citizen Corps. The training, May 21-23 in Columbia, was led by the MyPI National coordination team.

Over the next 16 months, MyPI Missouri will offer the youth preparedness program to youths ages 13-19 who will assist families and communities across the state.

“MyPI Missouri will engage teens in a 4-H SPIN, or special interest program, to learn skills to help their own families and neighbors and to explore careers in emergency preparedness,” said state 4-H youth development specialist Steve Henness, who works with Burnham to support the program.

“One particular component that really excites me about this project is the PREP + 6 service project,” Burnham said. “This component requires the student to assist their family and six additional families develop emergency kits and family communications plans. If every family had an emergency kit and a communication plan, it could be life-changing for many of our families and communities.”

The training coincided with the appearance destructive tornadoes near Joplin and in Jefferson City, which is also afflicted by flooding along the Missouri River.

“Delivering this three-time award-winning program in a state where disasters are commonplace just proves how necessary and important MyPI is to Missouri and the rest of the nation,” said Dave Nichols, lead Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) instructor for MyPI National.

“MyPI Missouri instructors have displayed fantastic levels of passion, engagement and motivation that is characteristic of our most productive partners,” said MyPI National project director C. Ryan Akers. “And the severe weather events that we witnessed across Missouri this week certainly underscore the need for those characteristics.”

The MyPI model offers a flexible five- to 10-week program, Akers said. Teenagers complete the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/FEMA-certified CERT training and corresponding modules. The program also features certification opportunities in CPR and automated external defibrillator usage, along with a technology track and a career track that focuses on public safety, fire service and emergency management careers. The final element of the program includes PREP + 6, in which each participant helps develop emergency supply kits and emergency communication plans for their family and six additional families or households.

Becky Simpson, CES in 4-H youth development in Daviess County, believes that Missouri teens need to be involved in a comprehensive program like MyPI to realize their potential. “Teens are often forgotten when community preparedness is discussed,” she said. “MyPI will help our youth see and reach their potential and enable them to be vital members of their communities’ preparedness and resilience strategies.”

“Teenagers have an amazing capacity to make changes in the culture of a community,” said Meridith Berry, CES in community economic development in Grundy County and one of the newly certified MyPI Missouri instructors. “Too often, local governments overlook the value teenagers bring to the community as active and concerned citizens. Teens often feel that they have no voice or choice in the future of the community. MyPI gives them a chance to actively impact the well-being of the families and individuals in the community.”

For more information about MyPI Missouri, including areas where the program will be delivered initially, go to mypimissouri.org or contact Conne Burnham, MyPI Missouri program manager, at burnhamc@missouri.edu or 573-884-5254. For more information about MyPI National, visit mypinational.extension.msstate.edu or contact Ryan Akers, MyPI National project director, at cra20@msstate.edu or 662-325-5914. On social media, the projects can be found by searching “My PI Missouri” and “My PI National” on Facebook and “@MyPI_MO” and “@MyPI_National” on Twitter.

Writer: Curt Wohleber

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