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Youth Preparedness Council

About the Council

The FEMA Youth Preparedness Council was formed in 2012 to bring together youth leaders from across the country who are highly interested and engaged in advocating youth preparedness and making a difference in their communities. The Council members are selected based on their dedication to public service, their efforts in making a difference in their communities, and their potential to expand their impact as national advocates for youth preparedness.

The Council supports FEMA’s commitment to involving youth in preparedness-related activities and provides an avenue to engage the youth population, taking into account their perspectives, feedback, and opinions. This year’s Council members attended the Youth Preparedness Council Summit in July 2015, meet periodically with FEMA representatives, and are working to complete a number of projects.

The following profiles provide an overview of the Council members’ preparedness backgrounds and their work on current and past projects.You can also download a PDF of the Members’ Profile Pages.

2015 Youth Preparedness Council Member Biographies

Obie Jones

Picture of Obie Jones

Council Chair

Obie started a Teen CERT program at his high school and was the president for the 2014–2015 school year. The program is offered as a for-credit class. Obie shared his experience at the Texas Unites Emergency Preparedness Conference. Obie has also presented at the Texas Emergency Management Conference, where he spoke on ways to get youth more involved in emergency preparedness. In the summers of 2013 and 2014, Obie was the Search and Rescue Supervisor at Boy Scout camp, during which he managed both drills and an actual search and rescue mission. Obie also has a commitment to animal preparedness and response and received an Animals in Disasters Certificate in 2013. After a flood, he assisted Austin Animal Service Protection Officers as they rescued and sheltered animals. Obie’s accomplishments include having received Incident Command System training and a Gold Presidential Service Award in 2013. Obie is also an Eagle Scout, and he was a Lieutenant with the Austin/Travis County EMS Explorer Program. Obie is currently in school to become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

Group Project

Obie will lead the Council’s group project.

Project Title: Youth Preparedness Council Online Engagement

Description: The Youth Preparedness Council members will share preparedness tips over social media on the second Monday of each month. The topics will align with the Ready campaign’s National Seasonal Preparedness Content Messaging Calendar.


  1. Share preparedness tips on social media according to each month’s theme.
  2. Project a unified voice for the Youth Preparedness Council.

Previous Projects

  • Obie worked with the Youth Preparedness Council of Region VI to establish Youth Preparedness Councils for each state within his region.
  • Obie worked with states in Region VI to establish a youth preparedness online certificate program to help better prepare the youth of Region VI. The youth preparedness online certificate program is available in Texas and Arkansas.
  • Obie presented at the 2015 Texas Emergency Management Conference.

To reach Obie, please contact Allison Carlock at

Bridget Smith

Photo of Bridget Smityh

FEMA Region I (Connecticut)

Bridget is actively involved in the Girl Scouts, where she has sought to promote preparedness education. In fact, her Silver Award project was running an event called Brownie Outdoor Skills Day. At the event, Bridget focused on teaching preparedness and outdoor skills—such as building fires, tying knots, and pitching tents—to younger Girl Scouts. Bridget is certified in First Aid and CPR, and as a Waterfront Lifeguard. She is also a Girl Scout Senior Outdoor Specialist. Bridget’s legacy project, which was also her Girl Scout Gold Award project, was a hands-on disaster preparedness exhibit for kids. Bridget has directly experienced the importance of preparedness, especially during Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. Her house has lost power multiple times, causing her family to lose water. They have learned to be thoroughly prepared, and Bridget has created a preparedness kit for her family. In addition to her work with the Girl Scouts, Bridget volunteers at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children, and she was awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Award: Silver Level in 2012.


Project Title: Stamford is StormReady!

Description: Bridget will lead an effort to help Stamford, Connecticut become a StormReady community. StormReady is a National Weather Service (NWS) program that helps communities prepare for severe weather events. The program outlines guidelines that communities must meet in order to be certified as StormReady.


  1. Improve the community’s capability to save lives and protect property from severe weather, focusing on planning, education, and awareness.
  2. Learn the town’s preparedness-related processes and procedures.
  3. Ensure Stamford meets StormReady guidelines related to communication, NWS info reception, weather monitoring, local warning dissemination, and community preparedness.
  4. Lead the process of applying for StormReady certification.

Previous Project

Bridget developed a disaster preparedness exhibit for children that includes hands-on, interactive activities and workshops. She shared the exhibit at a children’s museum, and it was so successful that she was asked to share it at additional venues as well.

To reach Bridget, please contact Donald Vincent at

James Collins

Photo of James Collins

FEMA Region II (New Jersey)

James has experience across a range of disaster preparedness and response functions. He is a firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) on the Millstone Township Fire Department and Monroe Township Ambulance Rescue Squad. During Hurricane Sandy and the blizzard that followed, James was actively involved in response efforts with the Fire Department. James has experience responding to emergencies such as forest fires, structural fires, serious car accidents, and rescue assignments. He is also an Eagle Scout. For his Eagle Scout project, James orchestrated the development of a half-mile nature trail, complete with benches. This project entailed working with a number of government agencies, honing James’ partnership and leadership skills. He also received an Emergency Preparedness merit badge for his efforts. James has attended the National Youth Leadership Training Program, the Junior Leadership Program, and the Patrol Leadership Skills Course. James has an ICS Level 3 certification and Hazardous Materials Operations (HAZMAT OPS), extrication technician, and other advanced first responder certifications. James is in the process of joining the New Jersey Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Task Force and Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team.


Project Title: Mass Casualty Incident Exercise

Description: James will organize a mass casualty exercise at his college, with approximately 20 participants.


  1. Facilitate training for responders.
  2. Promote emergency preparedness.
  3. Depict a realistic situation.
  4. Conduct a hotwash and document lessons learned.

Previous Project

James conducted a mass casualty incident training drill that simulated a plane crash to test the capabilities of the State of New Jersey and Monmouth County. In total, more than 80 emergency service organizations and more than 85 mock victims participated in this full-scale exercise. James used the Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program (HSEEP) and was both the exercise coordinator and director. 

To reach James, please contact Eric Goldman at

Sahara Duncan
 Photo of Shara Duncan

FEMA Region III (Pennsylvania)

As a longtime member of the Girl Scouts, Sahara has used her platform to teach young Girl Scouts about First Aid and the value of volunteering. Sahara has experience presenting on youth preparedness, as she has given presentations to Senior and Brownie Girl Scouts.  She has also presented at an Operation Military Kids event where she spoke about the importance of community support and education as drivers of disaster preparedness. She has a strong commitment to community service and volunteered with the American Red Cross where she served as a mentor for inner-city youth. Sahara canvassed at-risk neighborhoods to spread the word about preparedness and the importance of smoke detectors. At one house fire in her community, Sahara was able to shadow the responders and provide “comfort kits” to the displaced residents. For her high school senior project, Sahara spoke to teachers at her school about the American Red Cross’ disaster preparedness programs. Sahara recently hosted an American Red Cross blood drive.


Project Title: Pillowcase Project

Description: Sahara will promote the Pillowcase Project in her community. The Pillowcase Project teaches youth in grades 3-5 the importance of emergency preparedness. The program also includes discussion of local and state-specific disasters that can occur and how to prepare to deal with them.


  1. Teach the Pillowcase Project to Girl Scouts.
  2. Reach out to other youth in the community (including church youth groups, after school programs, military youth, and year-round youth programs).
  3. Get youth trained to teach and assist with the Pillowcase Project (for example, teaching the Pillowcase Project could be a senior project).

Previous Projects

  • Sahara implemented the American Red Cross Pillowcase Project with local Girl Scout troops, including tailoring the training to the Girl Scout troop meeting structure (splitting the Pillowcase Project into two sessions).
  • Sahara worked with FEMA Corps on canvassing and sharing home fire safety information.

To reach Sahara, please contact Steve Edwards at

Angelo Degraff

Photo of Angelo DeGraff

FEMA Region III (Maryland)

Angelo is certified as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Skywarn weather spotter. During snowstorms, he has documented snow levels and shared those levels, plus photos of snow-damaged buildings, with NOAA in Baltimore. Angelo searched throughout Southern Maryland for a Teen CERT program, and when he could not find one, he developed a proposal to start a Teen CERT program at his middle school. He was recently inducted into the National Junior Honor Society, and in that role he will be responsible for several community service projects. Angelo has completed the American Red Cross’ Masters of Disaster program; he participates in a service-learning club; and he has an excellent academic record. Angelo was named Student of the Year in Math and English in 2013 and 2014, and has been on the Honor Role consistently from the 5th grade to the present.


Project Title: School-based Preparedness Outreach

Description: Angelo will organize a school program by which volunteers will teach students and parents about preparedness and how to use safety packs. The National Junior Honor Society will be involved in the project.


  1. Increase awareness of preparedness.
  2. Build relationships between the community and emergency services organizations.
  3. Eventually expand into a Teen CERT program.
  4. Create a preparedness officer position within the National Junior Honor Society.

To reach Angelo, please contact Steve Edwards at

Matthew Mayfield
Photo of Matthew Mayfield

FEMA Region IV (Alabama)

Matthew has been involved in community preparedness since early childhood as his family is actively involved in the preparedness and response community. Matthew spent his early years attending trainings and classes, and began to assist with instruction. He regularly presented fire and life safety information at his school and across Colorado. He has completed firefighter and hazardous materials operation training. In 2012, Matthew assisted Teller County with logistical and fire patrol operations during a series of arson fires. After supporting response to the Hayman Fire, Matthew became particularly interested in fire preparedness and involved in the Firewise program. He developed preparedness materials, distributed hundreds of information packets, and presented the information at events throughout the community. Matthew then moved to Alabama where he joined a local Fire Explorers program. He has made several home fire and life safety presentations in the community and plans to make more. Matthew has started a Fire and Life Safety Prevention Program in the city of Helena, Alabama under the guidance of his post advisor and his father.


Project Title: Home Fire and Life Safety Education

Description: Matthew will continue providing home fire and life safety education to the public. He will make presentations and distribute resources, covering topics including fire extinguishers, kitchen fires, and smoke alarms.


  1. Educate the public on home fire and life safety.
  2. Better prepare people for an emergency.
  3. Reduce fire-related deaths.

Previous Projects

Matthew shared home fire and life safety information with the public. These efforts included developing and refining materials and presenting the information at a variety of meetings, events, and festivals.
Matthew trained other Helena Fire Explorers to do presentations.

To reach Matthew, please contact Candace Burrell at

Jonathan Salazar
Photo of Jonathan Salazar

FEMA Region IV (Florida)

Growing up in Florida, Jonathan is no stranger to natural disasters; he is a survivor of Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. He is a devoted member of his Civil Air Patrol (CAP) squadron. In addition to trainings and simulations, Jonathan has participated in more than 50 CAP missions, during several of which he served as a team leader in urban search and rescue. He has been the recipient of several awards, such as Emergency Services Member of the Year. This past year, Jonathan served as Chairman of the CAP Group VI Cadet Advisory Council. Jonathan not only applies his training, but also seeks to share it with others. In fact, he ran a preparedness program through his CAP unit. His program included a competition to create the most efficient preparedness pack, asking participants to balance cost and quality. Jonathan has experience partnering with organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Police/Fire Explorers, Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), and CERT. He is also a licensed pilot and aims to serve as a pilot in the United States Air Force.


Project Title: “It can happen”

Description: Jonathan plans to:

  1. Start a CERT or Teen CERT program in the northwest Tampa (Tarpon Springs) area. The CERT program will incorporate campaigns such as the American Red Cross’s Pillowcase Project and Home Fire Campaign. After CERT training, CERT members will serve as preparedness leaders in the community.
  2. Plan a Mass Casualty Incident drill.


  1. Promote Whole Community awareness and preparedness.
  2. Improve interagency coordination and diagnostics.
  3. Encourage youth to be ready and be proactive.

Previous Project

Jonathan presented to groups including Boy Scout troops and CAP units about preparedness.

To reach Jonathan, please contact Candace Burrell at

Isaiah Garcia
Photo of Isaish Garcia

FEMA Region V (Michigan)

Isaiah grew up on the isolated Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The remote location, challenging weather, and potential security risks around the International Bridge and the Soo Locks reinforce the importance of preparedness as a way of life. Isaiah was an active member of his community’s Teen CERT—he’s completed both CERT Basic Training and Michigan’s Advanced CERT curriculum—and Lake Superior State University’s Upward Bound program. Isaiah seeks out opportunities to share his preparedness knowledge with others. He was the lead speaker of a team that presented preparedness information to fourth graders. The team wrote the presentation script and secured a grant to fund the program. Isaiah also took part in an Oktoberfest community event, distributing information and discussing preparedness with those attending the event. With preparedness already being a way of life in his community, Isaiah is always looking for ways to strengthen and improve resiliency for all. In college, Isaiah is looking to educate college students and help them become more disaster-ready in case an emergency strikes.

Project Title: Regional Youth Preparedness Council

Description: Isaiah will create a Region V Youth Preparedness Council. The Council should be established by the April 2016 America’s PrepareAthon! National Day of Action (April 30).


  1. Conduct a regional summit in April 2016.
  2. Unify Region V.
  3. Create a framework that other regional Councils can follow.

Previous Project

Isaiah worked on promoting Smart 911 in his community. This program allows people to provide emergency services personnel with information about their households, in case they ever call 911.

To reach Isaiah, please contact Gabriel Garriga at

Ty Zaunbrecher
Photo of Ty_Zaunbrecher

Region VI (Louisiana)

Ty is actively involved in a variety of positions in his community. He participated in a class on hazard mitigation offered by LSU AgCenter Extension Associates in which students assessed buildings in their parish on their ability to withstand natural disasters. The students identified the building most in need of an update and presented their findings to the parish government. Ty now serves as chairperson of a statewide task force on disaster mitigation. Ty has also shared the mitigation project at the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) National Conference in 2014 and at the Gulf of Mexico Youth Leadership in Stewardship Conference in 2015. At the State Conference of the LSU AgCenter Agents, he presented about the mitigation project, in an effort to get other parishes interested in participating. Ty also serves on both the Vermilion Parish 4-H Advisory Council and the State 4-H Science Engineering and Technology Board..


Project Title: Social Media Project

Description: Ty plans to use social media and video to introduce youth preparedness to the general public throughout FEMA Region VI.


Use video and social media to inform the youth in FEMA Region VI about youth preparedness in each state and the region as a whole.

To reach Ty, please contact Bill Bischof at

Austin Witt

Photo of Austin Witt

FEMA Region VII (Iowa)

Austin is an active member of his county’s CERT program, where he took on leadership roles such as CERT Team Captain and Vice President of the CERT Board of Directors. He also began the process of applying for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status for the CERT program. Austin’s experience extends beyond the administrative to real-life response efforts such as his participation in multiple search and rescue missions. He also helped distribute bottled water to his town’s residents for three days when a boil alert was issued in response to flooding. Austin has also responded in the wake of severe weather, getting involved with setting up shelters and cleanup efforts. Austin was further involved in community engagement: he participated with 4-H; he was Senior Class President; he volunteered at the YMCA; and he worked as a volunteer with a local newspaper. Austin is now in college, and he is a volunteer EMT with New Sharon Fire & Rescue.


Project Title: Mass Casualty Incident Drill

Description: Austin plans to organize and run a Mass Casualty Incident drill incorporating Mahaska County’s newly formed hazmat team along with multiple fire departments, police departments, and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) agencies. The drill will revolve around an incident in which the county hospital has to be evacuated. Many Mass Casualty Incident drills involve incidents where injured people are taken to the hospital, but his goal is to train for a situation in which the hospital is no longer accessible.


  1. Include as many participants as possible, such as first responder agencies, county officials, and community volunteers.
  2. Enhance the response capabilities of first response agencies in the county.
  3. Identify lessons learned that can be used to improve response plans.

Previous Project

Austin went door-to-door in his community to share preparedness information. He also identified lower income individuals and families who might benefit from weather radios. To help meet this need, he gathered funds and donations to distribute the weather radios.

To reach Austin, please contact Thomas Morgan at

Weston Lee

Photo of Weston Lee

FEMA Region VIII (Utah), Council Vice Chair

Weston is involved with the American Red Cross. He is a member of a Disaster Action team and the Northern Utah Board of Directors. He also serves on the Utah Region Youth Leadership Committee as a Co-Chair for Disaster Preparedness and Response. In this position, he plans and manages several preparedness-related meetings and trainings for the Youth Services program. Each year, they hold a disaster services training specifically for youth in the state of Utah. Weston is trained as an Adult and Pediatric First Aid, CPR, and AED Instructor and as a Nursing Assistant. He is a member of his school district’s Student Response Team, trained to respond to disasters or other traumatic events that may impact the school or community. As part of his school’s HOSA: Future Health Professionals club, Weston is actively involved in the Childhood Hunger initiative. In spring 2015, Weston was selected as a Utah HOSA State Officer, in the position of Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Liaison. He plans to work on implementing the National Strategy for Youth Preparedness Education in his HOSA chapter, his community, and his state.


Project Title: Utah Youth Preparedness Council

Description: Weston will create a statewide, sustainable, youth-initiated Youth Preparedness Council following the model of the Utah State Citizen Corps Council. The state Youth Preparedness Council will engage the youth population in self-initiated, supervised, and supported projects.


  1. Establish a Council structure within the state.
  2. Develop selection and maintenance criteria for Council members.
  3. Determine number of Council meetings and begin holding statewide meeting(s).
  4. Develop a charter and attain state recognition of the Youth Preparedness Council.
  5. Affirm the National Strategy for Youth Preparedness Education.

Previous Projects

  • Weston worked to expand the Pillowcase Project throughout Utah. He and his friends taught the Pillowcase Project, and Weston trained others to lead the Pillowcase Project.
  • Weston started working to create a Utah Youth Preparedness Council with former Council member Ashley Houston, and to start Teen CERT programs in his community and region.
  • Weston worked on developing a Junior MRC program among local HOSA chapters, and implementing the National Strategy for Youth Preparedness Education.

To reach Weston, please contact Daniel Nyquist at

Divakar Saini
Photo of Divakar Saini

FEMA Region IX (California)

Divakar’s motto is “Eprep is Essential,” and his impressive level of engagement with preparedness efforts in his community shows that he truly lives that motto. He created and taught a preparedness program for children ages 6-12, called “Masters of Disasters,” in conjunction with the Office of Emergency Services. He is also a trained member of his city’s Block Preparedness Coordinator (BPC) program and participates in the program’s quarterly drills. In collaboration with the adult BPCs, Divakar coordinated a project in which the members of his school’s emergency preparedness club painted house numbers on sidewalks. Divakar also is committed to the use of technology as a way to make disaster preparedness and response more efficient and widespread. He created a smartphone app that allows BPCs and CERT volunteers to better coordinate with city officials, including the sharing of incident reports and the ability to sort them by priority. He maintains a Facebook page about emergency preparedness and contributes emergency preparedness tips to a newsletter. Divakar has also been involved with in-person outreach, including organizing preparedness booths at community events.


Project Title: Emergency Services Application

Description: Divakar is developing a smartphone application that can improve communication during disasters among block leaders, neighborhoods, and the city’s office of emergency services.


  1. Improve communication among groups of leadership during a disaster.
  2. Facilitate better relationships between neighbors. People will come together during training on the app, and by getting to know one another they may be encouraged to continue conversations about community needs and other topics. 
  3. Improve the allocation of resources in the event of a disaster.

To reach Divakar, please contact Randy Brawley at

Kiahna Lee Espia
Photo of Kiahna Espia

Region IX (Guam)

Kiahna is the founder and President of the Harvest Christian Academy (HCA) CERT Club. Through that club, she has partnered with many components of the Guam first responder community and several service organizations. They participated in National Preparedness Month, including running an outreach booth at a community event and participating in the CERT Rodeo. They advanced their knowledge by taking further training, such as First Aid/CPR, Basic Life Support, and National Incident Management System (NIMS) courses, and supported significant community programs, such as the 9/11 5K Run/Walk and Adopt-a-Bus Shelter. Kiahna is very much involved in recruitment for the program and preparedness outreach. She has developed promotional and outreach materials, including brochures, posters, and banners, and she was a guest on a radio station, during which time she spoke about disaster preparedness and volunteerism. Kiahna also represented the HCA CERT Club, an affirmer of the National Strategy for Youth Preparedness Education, at the National Strategy event in Washington, D.C. She spoke about her program during the affirmers’ collaborative session.


Project Title: Guam Youth Preparedness Coalition

Description: Kiahna will develop a coalition to unify Guam’s youth preparedness organizations. This coalition will work in close coordination with Guam Homeland Security and various Guam governmental agencies to provide opportunities for youth. Kiahna will also standardize and centralize materials to support the coalition.


  1. Encourage youth preparedness through school and community preparedness.
    • Establish youth preparedness organizations, such as Teen CERT programs, in high schools (public, private, Department of Defense), sports organizations, and applicable villages in Guam.
  2. Organize a Guam Youth Preparedness Coalition.
    • There will be a Guam Volunteers and Youth Preparedness and Leadership Summit in August.
  3. Maintain partnerships with the Department of Education, Guam Homeland Security, Mayors Council of Guam, Guam Ministerial Association, and Archdiocese of Hagatna.

To reach Kiahna, please contact Randy Brawley at

Megan Stutzman

Photo of Megan Stutzman

FEMA Region X (Oregon)

Megan is a survivor of the 2012 Willamette River flooding, an event in which she played an active role in response. As part of the local CERT program, she served for three days, filling and delivering sandbags, packing and relocating items in the town’s museum, and managing equipment check in/out. Megan has taken on a more advanced role in the CERT program’s training component, where she assists instructors and conducts demonstrations during class. Megan also sets up the mock disaster for the class, including recruiting and training mock victims, planning the disaster scenario, and monitoring safety during the event. She recently completed the CERT Train-the-Trainer course and will soon be a lead instructor for both teen and adult classes. In addition to training and response, the CERT program has been involved with community activities such as assisting with a July 4th fireworks event. Megan created an operational plan, recruited participants, reviewed gear needs, and liaised with the city administration. Megan is the Teen CERT Team Lead, and she is working on establishing a preparedness class or CERT club at her school. She is also the administrator of her Teen CERT program’s Facebook page, and she is hoping to develop a newsletter.


Project Title: Oregon Youth Preparedness Council

Description: Megan plans to develop a Youth Preparedness Council in Oregon. A Youth Preparedness Council will encourage youth involvement in emergency preparedness throughout the state.


  1. Increase awareness of emergency preparedness in teens throughout the state.
  2. Establish an Oregon Youth Preparedness Council, then develop Councils in other states, eventually establishing a regional Council.
  3. Encourage Council members to spread information about emergency preparedness to other teens.

To reach Megan, please contact Bryant Harrison at

Hailey Starr

Photo of Hailey Starr

FEMA Region X (Washington)

Hailey is dedicated to improving the level of preparedness on the reservation where she lives. She is a very active member of the Muckleshoot Teen CERT, with which she made an active shooter training video. Hailey assisted with writing the script and served as the producer for the video. The students now want to share the video with other schools. The students were also approached about doing an emergency video in the Lashootseed dialect. Hailey is participating in a Teen CERT project to make emergency backpacks for the Elders in the community. The group is also working on a class they will run at one of the school’s bi-monthly Culture Nights, in which they will teach community members about preparedness. The information could subsequently be shared at one of the community’s pow-wows. Finally, Hailey is working with her school’s librarian on an article about what to do during a windstorm.


Project Title: Tribal Emergency Preparedness Outreach

Description: Hailey is planning a project with four stages:

  1. Distribute emergency kits to tribal elders.
  2. Produce and distribute an emergency preparedness video.
  3. Conduct a tribal preparedness fair.
  4. Hold a shelter-in-place exercise.


  1. Gain knowledge and share information with local tribal communities.
  2. Give people a feel for the types of emergencies and disasters that could happen.
  3. Engage the community in emergency planning.

To reach Hailey, please contact Bryant Harrison at