FORT MCDOWELL, AZ – On June 18, 2002, the Rodeo Fire was ignited on the lands of the White Mountain Apache near Cibecue, Arizona. On June 20th, the Chediski Fire started on the Chediski Ridge also on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. By June 22nd, the two fires merged into the Rodeo-Chediski Fire consuming over 460,000 acres and becoming the largest fire in Arizona history.
During the Rodeo-Chediski fire, while Arizona and national media focused their attention on the towns of Pinetop and Showlow, the White Mountain Apache radio station KNNB, with the help of Native journalists, provided the only news coverage of the Apache communities that were literally caught in the center of the fire. KNNB radio became a lifeline for the Apache people.
Not much has changed across Tribal communities. Disasters on Tribal homelands don’t often get the attention of mainstream media and in those isolated pockets of rural Tribal lands, it is the Tribal radio and television stations that provide life-saving information to Native communities.
To prepare for future emergencies, Emergency First Responders and Tribal broadcasters from KPYT, KWLP, KYAY, and KNNB attended NPM’s signature emergency preparedness training January 25, 2019 held on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Tribal Reservation. Some of the most vulnerable populations during natural and man-made disasters are Tribal citizens.
As a result, understanding local disaster risks, mapping the capacity of emergency resources in their own Tribal communities including fundraising, as well as learning to create preventative public service messaging were at the core of the training.
“Disasters are not only on the rise but they threaten Native communities that often don’t have the manpower or resources as nearby cities and municipalities. To build sustained Tribal resilience, it is critical that tribal broadcasters in concert with first responders work proactively together using communication systems, information, and data, to prepare for emergencies and disasters,” explains lead NPM trainer Melissa Begay.