National Preparedness Month & Disaster Relief

Disasters don’t plan ahead, but you can. September is National Preparedness Month, and with recent disasters around the world, it couldn’t be a more relevant topic. FEMA originally created this observance back in 2004 to encourage Americans to prepare in advance for disasters such as floods, fires and power outages. Now we mark its 13th year of recognition and although the program is well established, many of us seem to give it a glance and then ignore its message. Hopefully, this year we can encourage you to expect the unexpected and take action.

When disaster strikes, PWNA is a first responder for the reservations. Although its services range from education to nutrition assistance and animal welfare, and disaster relief is also of critical importance to the tribes in our service area and beyond. Last year, alone, PWNA assisted nearly 57,000 people impacted by environmental emergencies such as flooding, fires and blizzards in Native communities.

In one case, PWNA helped the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe during the blizzard of 2010. This case is personally relevant to me, as the storm severely struck my hometown. Pipes froze shut, power lines collapsed and homes lost power for close to two weeks. The local store lost power, and with no way to refrigerate, lost much of its fresh food. My own family had to move between two houses during this time, one for heat, the other for water. While thousands were affected, this news did not reach the mainstream for 11 days, by which time, several homeless had already passed in the cold.

Since many reservation communities are so remote, and media coverage of disaster events tends to focus on the mainstream and often overlooks the tribal communities, these areas have a hard time getting timely and meaningful disaster relief. In working to get the word out to tribes about its disaster relief and other emergency services, PWNA utilizes community outreach as well as its website and social pages.

As a member of National VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster), PWNA provides emergency relief to reservations in its 12-state service area, and evaluates out-of-service area disasters on a case by case basis. As part of its emergency preparedness effort, PWNA is continuously anticipating and preparing for emergency situations by stocking and re-stocking water, cleaning supplies, batteries, personal hygiene kits, blankets and other items frequently requested by reservation partners during environmental emergencies.

This proactive emergency preparedness enables PWNA to quickly mobilize and deliver supplies to affected areas in need. Even just this year, we were able to provide emergency relief to Cheyenne River and the Lake Traverse Reservations for winter storms, and last year to tribes in Wisconsin, Louisiana and North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew and other storms flooded homes and displaced residents.

To meet the unexpected year-round, PWNA relies on individual donors as well as bulk donations of in-kind products such as those mentioned above. You can learn more about our first responder emergency relief and other emergency services here.

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