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Department of Homeland Security Shield / FEMA
Center for
Domestic Preparedness

Native Americans Prepare For Disaster Response

More than 12 tribes from six states met at the CDP recently. The 27 Native Americans attended the Healthcare Leadership for Mass Casualty Incidents (HCL) course and was the first time for the majority to combine with different tribes in a single training setting.

“Courses like this teach us how to plan and write required documents to bring our tribal communities in line with other government agencies,” said Belinda Brown from the Inter-Tribal Council of California. “We need levels of understanding between tribal and government agencies so we are all working together, on the same page, within the Incident Command System (ICS) using the whole community approach.”

Typically, Native American governments rely on their own response personnel and some have agreements in place for mutual aid and support with their surrounding local communities. A majority of those training consisted of healthcare personnel; however, others did represent the fire community, public works, safety and finance offices at different reservations. The students joined in training at the CDP’s Noble Training Facility (NTF), the only hospital in the nation solely dedicated to preparing the healthcare, public health and environmental health communities for mass casualty response to a catastrophic natural or man-made disaster.

During the four-day class the students trained on providing a realistic medical response. The NTF provides the perfect setting to mirror an emergency department surge, the activation of a hospital’s command center and emergency operations in public health.

“Training is important to public safety and keeps our communities safe,” said Brown. “We need to be aware of the standardized policies, protocols and procedures. All of this is crucial to the safety of our communities because we are all working towards the same goal and the tribes should be trained at the same capacity using common language as local emergency managers.”

“The majority of Native American communities are small and located in rural areas,” said Ronald Spang, acting Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator for the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Lame Deer, Mont. “We do not have access to this type of training and I know all of the tribes here will benefit. I rarely see emergency simulations that reinforce the importance of practicing our plans or implementing new plans if they are needed. I will recommend more of our tribal members attend this training.”

The training is fully funded and came at no cost to Tribal Nations. Transportation, meals, lodging and tuition were all covered.

The CDP offers more than 40 courses that focus on incident management, mass-casualty response and emergency response to a catastrophic natural disaster or terrorist act. Courses apply to all response disciplines such as hazardous materials, law enforcement, fire fighters or healthcare.

“I hope to work closer with local governments to include Tribal Nations in emergency planning and drafting Emergency Operations Plans for individual tribes,” Brown added. “My goal is to have the leaders attend CDP training. Close collaboration needs to occur between local, state, tribal and federal jurisdictions.”

“Communication and planning are critical during and after a disaster,” said Chuck Medley, CDP Assistant Director for Training Delivery. “The HCL course stresses both factors during simulated mass casualty exercises, providing a model for tribal nation healthcare professionals to emulate. The HCL course also provides a good venue for tribes and other jurisdictions to train alongside local governments from their surrounding area.”