Community Engagement News

4-H youths learn emergency preparedness through Extension initiative

FCH faculty developed an emergency preparedness curriculum for 4-H youth.

crack in cement from earthquake

By Chris Branam

The Cascadia Earthquake – “the big one” – has been on Lynette Black’s mind for more than a decade.

Scientists predict there is about a 37 percent chance that an earthquake of at least 8.0 magnitude will strike off the Pacific Northwest coast in the next 50 years. When it occurs, the historic temblor will devastate western Oregon.

Lynette is an associate professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and an Extension 4-H Youth Development faculty member in Wasco County. She decided to develop an emergency preparedness curriculum for 4-H youths when she first heard about the Cascadia Earthquake in 2007 while in Clackamas County.

Nearly 15 years later, Lynette is now leading the award-winning MyPI (My Preparedness Initiative) Oregon program, a leadership and educational outreach program training youths to help their communities during disasters. The curriculum integrates aspects of the federal CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training.

Lynette shifted the traditional in-person MyPI to a virtual environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting in January, the curriculum has been delivered each Tuesday in online 90-minute sessions. Lynette co-instructs with Ruth Dixon, 4-H educational program assistant in Curry County and director of the Gold Beach CERT team.

The current MyPI cohort is comprised of 48 participants from 16 counties. Lynette plans to offer a second cohort in the spring. Upon completion of the training, graduates will receive a backpack with emergency preparedness equipment and supplies.

“When I first developed the curriculum, the CERT program was focused on large disasters,” Lynette says. “I wanted young people to understand what they were learning was for large disasters, when first responders won’t be able to respond to the disaster by themselves and will need assistance from the community. That’s where they would come in.”

CERT, a program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, underwent a major change in 2019, shifting the focus from widespread disasters to more of a localized, all-hazards response. With an eye on Cascadia, Lynette continues to focus on preparing for the largest disaster possible.

“And then they would be ready for anything,” she says. “We know the earthquake is coming but we just don’t know when. My feeling is that we can prepare young people so that they are ready now and as adults.”

The first-aid training in MyPI applies not only to a large disaster but any kind of accidents in which people need help, Lynette says. There’s also a module on careers in emergency management.

“This training empowers them in knowing how to help until the professionals arrive,” she says. “The ‘golden hour’ is important in a life-threatening situation. The career exploration aspect is important, too, because it helps plant some seeds on which direction their life might take.”

Lynette serves as OSU Extension’s state disaster preparedness and recovery specialist and Extension’s liaison to the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). EDEN is a consortium of land-grant universities that focuses on the Extension Service’s role and participation in disaster preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery programs.

Lynette has authored or co-authored the following Extension disaster preparedness publications: No Power? No Problem: Tips to Help You Thrive in the Face of DisasterSurvival Basics: Water, and Cascadia Action Steps: It’s Time to Get Ready.

The latest publication, Survival Basics: Stress Less, focuses on mental well-being.