Rutgers Cooperative Extension and New Jersey CERT representatives and volunteers join innovative national award-winning youth preparedness partnership, MyPI National

Fire Supression

MyPI NJ instructors practice fire suppression

This week at the Bergen County Office of Emergency Management in Mahwah, NJ, the initial delegation of instructors within the New Jersey Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI New Jersey, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the fifth state to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to Tamara Pellien, Ocean County Extension Department Head and 4-H Agent for Rutgers Cooperative Extension, and MyPI New Jersey Program Coordinator, “The continuum of learning that starts with teens in MyPI will stay with each of them as they become adults, start their families, and become vital members of their communities.  More poignantly, they will be able to prepare and strengthen their family as a cohesive team in the event of an emergency, disaster, or tragic event.  I like that MyPI puts teens in the central role of community supporter.  Teens need the opportunity to be impactful in their communities and MyPI absolutely provides them with this, along with the skills to become advocates for their community members when they need in the most.”  Added Pellien, “MyPI represents what I refer to as the ‘parenting trifecta’ that conscientious parents seek for their children’s lateral enrichment opportunities – service to community, life skills development, and real responsibility.  It really is a fascinating and comprehensive program, and a wonderful opportunity for their development and education.”

Over the next 11 months, MyPI New Jersey will be offering an innovative and engaging youth preparedness program to approximately 125 teens and reaching approximately 875 families 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, strengthens youth leadership, communication skills, teamwork, decision making, self-esteem, civic responsibility, and empowerment, along with family communication and cohesion. “As our MyPI National team works with both Tamara Pellien and Meredith Martin and their instructors over the next 11 months, we will continue the process of fostering relationships and networks that will hopefully ensure the success of MyPI New Jersey for years to come, which is our overarching goal for this great state and its citizens and communities” said Dr. C. Ryan Akers, MyPI National and MyPI Mississippi Project Director.  Mississippi Citizen Corps State Program Manager and Lead Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Instructor for MyPI National, Dave Nichols, added, “Having trained and collaborated with CERT instructors from New Jersey in the past, it was nice to come to their state and see the work that had been done in CERT.  While MyPI in no way replaces CERT, we recognize the need for continued CERT training, and that is why CERT is the foundation for the MyPI model.  We have infused additional components that address the gaps in CERT and created a leadership/service focus which is so critical for today’s teens.  It has been a pleasure to see how MyPI will be used to enhance citizen preparedness in the great state of New Jersey.”

MyPI New Jersey is a component of the National Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI National, a partnership of eight pilot states delivering the MyPI curriculum to teenagers across Nebraska, Hawaii, New Jersey, Washington, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, and Mississippi.  MyPI National recently was awarded the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individual and Community Preparedness national award for “Outstanding Achievement in Youth Preparedness”.  Capitalizing on success and momentum, MyPI National also recently received federal funding for a Phase 2 expansion of the program which enables the inclusion of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, South Dakota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, and the first U.S. Territory to be represented, Guam.  Regarding New Jersey, Akers stated, “I know that I speak for our entire MyPI National team when I say that it was certainly a pleasure to work with a group of attentive and passionate professionals this week in New Jersey and to install the first cohort of instructors for MyPI New Jersey.  One cannot argue that the instructors who completed our training this week were extremely passionate and forward-thinking regarding the enhancement of individual, family, and community preparedness and well as positive youth development across the Garden State.  We are excited to partner with Rutgers Cooperative Extension and professional emergency management personnel and volunteers.  I anticipate fantastic growth as MyPI New Jersey progresses and flourishes across the state.  It is a fantastic, multi-faceted program that offers rich learning and leadership opportunities for teens and enhanced preparedness levels for families and communities across this great state.  There is a focus and energy necessary as we move into the next phase of MyPI New Jersey, where the real work is done and the real impact is seen. I look forward to seeing MyPI New Jersey instructors respond to the challenge and become the catalyst for positive impact.  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.  We expect a profoundly positive impact for all involved here and will continue to work with the instructors and Tamara and Meredith, to ensure its success.”

For students in the eight states, 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 Teen 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 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.  Jeanne Calderone is among the newly certified MyPI New Jersey instructors and will be delivering the program in Bergen County.  Calderone’s message to potential MyPI teens is simple, “You will feel an extreme sense of accomplishment and appreciation in completing this national award-winning program.  The leadership opportunities involved are tremendous and the positive learning experience will enable you to impact and share important preparedness and life lessons with many future generations.  As an instructor, I am looking forward to being a supportive, positive influence on teaching my youth participants and their families potentially life-saving skills through preparedness education.”  On the importance of MyPI New Jersey, Matthew Newman, a new instructor from Monmouth County, stated, “One need look no further than the wide-scale natural disasters that have taken place across 2017 to see both the importance and relevance of being prepared and having a plan in place.  As a MyPI New Jersey instructor, I am most looking forward to bringing this information to the community where I live and work.  But another hallmark to this experience is the capstone service project that will afford our students the opportunity to feel empowered in this process by serving their communities by assisting families in developing emergency supply kits and family communication plans.”  Meredith Martin, Emergency Planner and CERT Liaison in the Bergen County Office of Emergency Management agreed, “Through MyPI and the PREP + 6 service project, the our teens will promote preparedness with their families and friends that will hopefully have a ripple effect and create a more resilient and unified community.”

The partnering states 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 New Jersey, including the areas of the state that the program will be delivered in the initial deliveries, please visit the MyPI New Jersey website at or contact Tamara Pellien, MyPI New Jersey Program Coordinator at or 732-349-1227.  For more information regarding MyPI National, please visit the MyPI National website at or contact Dr. Ryan Akers, MyPI National Project Coordinator at or 662.325.5914.  You may also reference both projects on social media platforms.  Facebook profiles can be found by searching My PI New Jersey and My PI National respectively, and Twitter handles can be found by searching @MyPI_NJ and @MyPI_National.