Matthew Mayfield may have finished his work with FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council (YPC) in 2015, but his zeal for emergency readiness and response continue. Since participating in the YPC, he has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in public health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). He has also obtained his emergency medical technician (EMT) license.
“The YPC definitely set me on a good track and has actually opened a few doors for me. It gave me another passion—for not only the first response side of emergency services but the preparedness portion. Teaching is now one of my favorite things,” he says.
“It also gave me a better grasp on how to look at the bigger picture and be two steps ahead of any possible issue when problem solving.”
While in the YPC, Mayfield was part of a group of 15 teens from across the country working on national and local preparedness-related projects.
According to Mayfield, emergency response runs in his family. His dad is a firefighter and the emergency preparedness manager for the UAB Health System. Mayfield’s mom is working on a doctorate that focuses on post-disaster mental health.
While he volunteers as a firefighter and EMT, Mayfield’s career plans in those fields have been put on hold during the pandemic. Instead, for the last 10 months he’s been working as an emergency preparedness and facilities intern with the UAB Health System. There he manages processing N95 masks for reuse. He also serves as a backup liaison at the command center.
I’ve had countless numbers of opportunities to put my emergency preparedness and public health skills and knowledge to work,” he continues.
This is also true outside of his work. Mayfield volunteers as an advisor to the local Fire Department Explorer Post, a program for youth with an interest in learning more about careers in firefighting and emergency services. Prior to the pandemic, volunteers set up preparedness booths during public events. He also helps the fire department with fire safety and hazard education. In addition, Mayfield organized preparedness events at UAB before the pandemic and now assists with virtual readiness messaging.
Mayfield says that engaging the public is often a challenge because people don’t think a disaster will affect them.
“Many people say that this has happened before, ‘We’re fine.’ But storms have gotten more severe,” Mayfield notes. “It’s hard to keep people engaged unless it’s really been bad for them.”
But Mayfield is not deterred, and he envisions continuing the same path in the future.
“Hopefully, five years from now I will be in my career as a firefighter. I hope to have started or completed paramedic [training]. I am going to continue to stay involved in public education and emergency preparedness as much as possible while continuing my career.”
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This article first appeared in the monthly Individual and Community Preparedness Newsletter. Subscribe here.