4-H members to be trained in emergency preparedness

HARRINGTON — Teens today, Doug Crouse notes, want to help make a difference.

“They are very civic minded, great volunteers in their community,” he said, seated in the exhibit hall at the Delaware State Fairgrounds on Tuesday. “This knowledge will just cause them to have another element that they can help and assist.”

Along with a group of about 10, Mr. Crouse was taking part in MyPI — a national youth preparedness program.

Delaware 4-H staff and volunteers learned how to suppress fires, as part of MyPI, a national emergency preparedness program. (Submitted photos)

Over the course of three days, Mr. Crouse, the state 4-H program leader based at the University of Delaware, and a group of volunteers and staff members primarily from 4-H, spent long days at the fairgrounds learning how to become trainers to effectively teach teens between ages 13 and 19 in how to be prepared for an emergency.

Through the MyPI program, future-trainers learn C.E.R.T. — the Community Emergency Response Team program — and other emergency preparedness skills that complement and better inform C.E.R.T. From suppressing a fire, to basic first aid, to search and rescue and more, the group learned how to do things themselves and then learned how to teach that to teenagers.

“We’ll take them through their modules — and a lot of this PowerPoint driven and instruction driven — and we make sure that they’re set in the classroom, and then we take them out into the field and in a controlled environment and let them extinguish fires like they just did,” explained Ryan Akers, national project director for MyPI.

Mr. Crouse said that 4-H plans to roll out youth training after the holidays, with the expectation that they will have trained at least 125 youths by the end of the pilot period in August 2021. The cost of the training and many of the materials are covered by a grant; any additional costs would come from replicating materials needed for training. Mr. Crouse said that after the pilot is completed, they would have to fund their own program.
This is the first time MyPI is in Delaware, and this is the 23rd program installed.

During a three-day training period, Delaware 4-H was invited to participate in MyPI, which gave them the skills to train youths in emergency preparedness.

On Tuesday, the group used a fire extinguisher to contain a fire on the fairgrounds. While one team extinguished the fire at a time — someone actually controlling the extinguisher, the other acting as a “buddy” to pull them back if need be — the rest of the group observed.

“So they’re watching all this take place, but we’re having to talk to them about, ‘All right, so we need to consider this is an actual class that you’re giving right now. What are some things that teens might be doing?’ They may not be paying attention,” Mr. Akers noted. “Well, this is definitely an activity that they need to be paying attention to or somebody can get hurt. We have to kind of play devil’s advocate, if you will.”

Mei Johnson, citizens corps and C.E.R.T. program manager for Delaware Emergency Management Agency who participated in the training, noted that this education is lacking for teenagers.
“We do a lot of fire safety, a lot of understanding of what’s going on and sort of the hazards; we remember the stranger danger from elementary and middle school, and then it sort of stops,” she said. “And it’s not picked up until people either learn it while on the job doing OSHA regulations, or it’s required to learn how to use a fire extinguisher.”

The goal isn’t necessarily to have teenagers running toward disaster when it strikes, but just being prepared if it does.
“A lot of times in situations where emergencies and disasters are kind of thought about, it’s always, ‘Well, that’s an adult thing. That’s an adult function. I don’t really have a role or responsibility here,’ and that couldn’t be any further from the truth,” Mr. Akers said. “We have a profound duty to educate a substantial portion of the population that doesn’t know how to prepare.”

Staff and volunteers from Delaware 4-H, and a member of DEMA, spent three days training with MyPI to learn how to teach youths emergency preparedness.

Ms. Johnson agreed, noting that with the implementation of “run, hide, fight” — training in the case of an active threat — has taught some skills.
“With the events that are happening, you’re seeing higher survival rates, more stories coming out of what they did and what went right,” she said. “So that’s the scary side. This is the not-so-scary side: this can help reduce anxieties, whether it’s the day-to-day, the little daily emergencies of, ‘Oh, the power went out, what am I going to do?’”

For 4-H to be disseminating those skills to youths, Mr. Crouse said, it makes sense.
“Some people believe 4-H is raising animals and living on a farm and cooking and stuff like that. That’s how 4-H originated, but in today’s environment, only 3 percent of our population in Delaware come from farms,” he said, noting that children can get involved with numerous different project areas, from computers to woodworking. “The variety and the depth of what kids can do and learn in 4-H has drastically expanded over the over 100 years it’s been an operation.”

Kaleb Scott, extension agent for after school programs 4-H, noted that this also helps establish life skills.
“Being able to provide life skills and education to youth in all aspects of emergency preparedness is really important and that way, they can feel more safe if a disaster does happen in their area, or their state and it also prepares them for careers in these fields,” he continued.

The future-trainers also noted that this will allow for leadership development in the teens.
“We have, in our 4-H office, we have a strong belief in that youth should be empowered to lead,” said Sen. Ernesto Lopez, who also serves as volunteer coordinator for 4-H. “And when it comes to taking care of one another as peers, we really feel it’s important that you have that knowledge or are given that knowledge to step forward in case there’s a difficult situation where individuals and other youth can not only look up to us as adults, but can look towards one another as teens and youth who’ve been trained.”

Dave Nichols, a national MyPI trainer who was one of the leaders who conducted the three-day training, hoped that the initial passion the group felt would keep the program going in Delaware.

“I hope that they fall in love with this so much that they make sure once this pilot is over, that they keep it going,” he said. “That it perpetuates itself. Because the pilot project only trains 125 youth, and if that’s all we train, well, it’s good, but there’s a lot more than 125 youth in the state of Delaware. And if we perpetuate, it there’s going to be a lot more than 125 year in and year out.”

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