How to Prepare for a Disaster Before It Strikes

Are you one of the heroes who stepped up in 2017 when the need for disaster relief was incredibly high? If so, I hope you will take this message to heart, as the 2018 hurricane season is already here.

Last year, most of us heard about the fires, flooding and hurricanes in mainstream areas, resulting in expensive property damage, though we rarely, if at all, heard about the need for disaster relief in the remote reservation communities that PWNA serves. Sadly, traditional news outlets rarely cover these areas of the country.

As individuals asked, “how can I help?” they mainly heard about supporting those larger charity organizations that are consistently associated with disaster relief, and they promptly complied with donations. However, isn’t it equally helpful and wise to also support the disaster relief efforts of charities serving similarly affected communities that are routinely overlooked by the larger charities and the media?

PWNA is often the first to hear about disasters affecting Native American tribes, because our reservation partners know us as a first responder for the reservations. We heard about the following emergency situations. Did you?

  • Dangerous wildfires affected tribes across Montana, Idaho, California, Arizona, Washington and Oregon.
  • Summer drought and triple-digit temperatures (up to120 degrees) posed a threat to Native Elders and youth, many of whom don’t have air conditioning or running water in their homes.
  • The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey left the Tunica-Biloxi tribe in Louisiana in urgent need.
  • Blizzards in the Northern Plains created five-foot snowdrifts, trapping many Montana tribal families in their homes for days with limited food and water.

As a Native-serving nonprofit, PWNA must anticipate needs in advance and prepare for disaster before it strikes. While it’s impossible to predict when and where disasters will happen, we know they’re inevitable. PWNA and our programs, including Northern Plains Reservation Aid (NPRA) and Southwest Reservation Aid (SWRA), have to be ready at all times to respond to our Native communities in a timely and truly helpful way.

How do we prepare for a disaster before it strikes?

  • By pre-stocking our warehouses with bottled water, canned food, flashlights, blankets, and other emergency supplies
  • By working year-round as a member of National Volunteers Active in Disaster (National VOAD), partnering with the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other first responders and not limiting this work only to the fall or September, which is National Preparedness Month
  • By building up our Disaster Relief Emergency Fund – before disaster strikes – to cover the costs of emergency supplies and delivering them as soon as the tribes need them
  • By supporting tribal communities with emergency preparedness planning and training, so they’re better able to react in emergency situations

As we anticipate the oncoming season of fires and hurricanes, my hope is that you’ll remember Native American families are often the hardest hit by natural disasters, given the impoverishment many tribal communities face. With little outside news coverage on their communities, tribal citizens often face these situations alone with limited resources or emergency responders.

If you’ve never supported recovering Native communities, or disaster relief here in the U.S., you have the opportunity to make a difference before the next emergency strikes. Donate today to support PWNA’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund and visit to stay informed on disasters affecting Indian Country.

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