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CALS Professor Leads Statewide Youth Disaster Preparedness Initiative

Group shot between two MyPI posters.
The first delegation of MyPI NC trainers at NC State's Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratories.

A new, award-winning disaster preparedness program geared to develop youth advocates has made its way to North Carolina, thanks to the efforts of CALS’ own Dr. Sarah Kirby, professor and FCS program leader.

My Preparedness Initiative (MyPI NC) was founded by the Mississippi State University Extension Service after a string of devastating tornadoes touched down in the state in 2011. The program’s goal is to prepare teens to take leadership roles in their homes and communities, ensuring that appropriate disaster response preparations are implemented.

“One of the central features that attracted me to this program is its ability to engage youth and help provide a forum for them to make a difference in their community and in their own families related to disaster preparation,” said Kirby. “This program encourages resilience in youth and can empower them and improve their response in the event of an emergency or disaster.”

In 2018, the goal of MyPI NC is to train at least 125 North Carolina teens. The first delegation of volunteer trainers, including Kirby, who serves as North Carolina program coordinator, completed program certification at NC State last week. Among the volunteers were several NC State Extension staff members and emergency management personnel from across the state. NC State Extension was represented by Keli Boone, Guy Holley, Sandy Hall, Tanya Heath, Sherry Fischlschweiger, Ginger Cunningham, Jonathon Smith, Lauren Nelson and Beth Stanley.

Youth committing to the MyPI program receive training in three primary areas: U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency-certified training (CERT), technology, and an exploration of careers in emergency management and related fields.

CPR/AED certification and light search and rescue are program requirements, as is training that includes ham radio operation, NOAA weather radio, smoke alarm installation and maintenance, smartphone apps and social media for emergency management, and much more. Participants are also introduced to topics such as disaster psychology and fire control.

Following the hands-on curriculum, program participants complete a service project requirement by training six other families to make appropriate emergency preparations.

After they successfully complete the 5- to 10-week program, participants receive a certificate and MyPI backpack.

MyPI NC is part of the National Youth Preparedness initiative, known as MyPI National. The national program received FEMA’s Outstanding Youth Preparedness Program Award as well as an honorable mention for community preparation. MyPI training is typically provided through school programs, organized youth programs such as 4-H, and community agencies.