National Preparedness Month: Planning Before Disaster Strikes
National Preparedness Month, occurring each September, encourages Americans to be prepared for any disasters or emergencies that may strike their homes and communities. Disaster preparedness is especially critical in impoverished Native communities, where everyday life can feel like a crisis and the disaster recovery process can be long.
Many tribal communities are all too familiar with weather emergencies, from fires and floods to tornadoes and snowstorms. This, coupled with the lack of local first responders and the lack of mainstream coverage of reservation disasters, creates an imminent need for tribal communities to be ready to act when disaster strikes.
PWNA supports disaster response through immediate relief as well as training and outside resources that help tribal communities and citizens plan ahead for what to do in an emergency. Designated emergency managers are trained to mitigate situations, communicate immediate needs and work with community members to act – not react. Additionally, many volunteers complete Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations. PWNA helped train more than 330 such individuals last year alone on the Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River, Lake Traverse and Crow Creek reservations, with support from the American Red Cross and other National VOAD partners.
Whether it’s tackling severe weather or reducing risk amid a global health pandemic, reservation communities face added barriers to emergency response. One of many basic utilities that many Americans take for granted, internet access is not as readily available or accessible within tribal communities. This digital divide adds major challenges when it comes to communicating emergency needs throughout a disaster event.
Most recently, emergency managers in our service area have been focused on securing laptops and internet hotspots to better respond to the coronavirus pandemic, access resources and stay connected with their communities. It is critical to have quick, reliable connectivity to coordinate an emergency response – especially in rural and remote areas.
As communities nationwide continue to navigate COVID-19 – and any other emergencies as they happen – PWNA remains committed to championing Native communities to confidently tackle whatever disaster comes their way.
For more information on creating your own emergency preparedness plan, visit ready.gov/september.