FEMA offers disaster resources for tribal communities

Tribal members can learn how to prepare themselves and family members for an emergency by visiting Ready Indian Country.

Since President Jimmy Carter first created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 1979, its key mission has focused on improving our nation’s disaster preparedness and response. Their Ready.gov website offers a wealth of disaster preparedness resources tailored to specific groups including seniors, infants, the disabled, military families, first responders, those with animals and college campuses. Most recently added are their Ready Indian Country resources for tribal communities. As with all families and communities, the first consideration is readiness planning. Critical steps include building an emergency kit with three days of essential supplies, making a plan with family members and learning the types of natural disasters most common in your geographic area.

Families living on tribal land in rural areas have additional factors to consider that those in urban areas may not face. As cordless or cell phones may not work in an emergency, having a wired land-line available is highly recommended. If tribal land is geographically isolated, transportation may be an issue. Some tribal members may not have cars, public transportation is likely not available and road access may be affected. Even if there are designated emergency shelter and food sites available during an emergency, they may not be nearby. Tribal elders may have special needs that family and neighbors should prepare for including necessary medicine, medical supplies and equipment. If you have pets and livestock, make sure to arrange for their care in advance.

FEMA offers regionally-customized brochures, posters, radio public service announcements for tribal communities to assist tribal members prepare for disasters typical of their geographic region. Michigan is included in the materials prepared for the Northeast, where snow is cited as a major factor as well as flooding, tornadoes and hurricanes depending on your state of residence. FEMA maintains a network of regional offices that may be contacted for more information. Residents of Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin are provided coverage by the Region V office in Chicago.

FEMA states that the goal of their Ready Indian Country program is “to collaborate with tribal governments to build emergency management capability and partnerships to ensure continued survival of Tribal nations and communities”. Tribal leaders are encouraged to review six questions to determine their tribal community’s disaster preparedness and contact the FEMA tribal liaison for their region is further assistance is desired.

As part of this effort, FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute offers training for tribal representatives to assist tribes in building a comprehensive emergency management system. Recognizing the unique nation-to-nation relationship, our federal government has with tribal governments and their essential role in improving disaster resiliency throughout the United States, FEMA leadership has also established a tribal consultation policy and tribal disaster declaration process to provide guidance on working to improve emergency and disaster responsiveness in Indian Country.

Michigan State University Extension is another resource for tribal leaders interested in gaining additional knowledge and skills essential for effective tribal governance. For more information about their Building Strong Sovereign Nations (BSSN) program, contact Extension tribal educator Emily Proctor.

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