Emergency Preparedness: We Are Doing This to Make Our Tribe Stronger

   By Joshua Arce

For 500 years, Native American tribes have been dealing with unmitigated disasters, in part caused by the federal government and/or colonialism. Disasters like those recently in Turkey have an impact, but climate change is reshaping reservation communities and displacing whole tribes. So, PWNA has focused on emergency preparedness for many years, with the support of organizations like Good360, Boeing, Levi Strauss, Freeport McMoRan and more.

What we have found while doing this work is nothing short of remarkable. There is no timeline for when an emergency will strike or even what it will look like. It could be a wildfire, a flood, or a car wreck, but a community with individuals that are prepared reaps better outcomes. These individuals also create a stronger bond with the youth, the Elders and the tribal leaders, creating a powerful connection to the betterment of their tribe or nation.

Recently, I attended one of our Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) sessions with the White Mountain Apache Tribe in northern Arizona. This two-day training was led by Code4, with tribal members from several nearby communities attending. The participation was electric, the stories abundant and the comradery energized. Even on day two, the participants returned with stories of sharing their learning with those at home, building excitement for the whole family. Through all the discussion, one theme was constant: ‘We are doing this to make our tribe stronger.’

On one of those days, we hosted a meeting with community officials for law enforcement, fire and dam safety too. All shared the same sentiment: ‘We must have an emergency plan for our community to be prepared’ ahead of disaster. When you see a community with a commitment to emergency preparedness at multiple levels (throughout leadership, across generations), you know they will be ready before the next disaster strikes.

Each group recalled impactful emergencies, whether a rodeo incident, a named wildfire or a flood. Being unprepared opened their eyes and sparked the intent to not be caught off guard again. Preparing for a disaster after it strikes is too little too late, but knowing what to do when disaster strikes means saving lives and minimizing the damage. This is what our CERT-trainees do.

Working with Tribal communities to develop their CERT team leaders is an honor and a privilege for PWNA, and we will keep advancing these programs with the support of corporate grants and sponsorships. Whether the disaster event is man-made, natural or accidental, proactive planning is the best way to limit the damage and mitigate the impact (physical, mental or material).

As CEO of PWNA, I am proud to work with so many different tribes to help coalesce their community resources, raise awareness and create a plan that can be implemented locally and shared with others. The mandate for emergency preparedness cannot be overstated, and being a good relative means that readiness and vigilance will be waiting in the wings.

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