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Kinship at the Heart of Emergency Training

By Kyler Edsitty

Indigenous communities find themselves at the forefront of natural and human-caused disasters in a world plagued by wildfires, tornadoes, and the relentless climate crisis. The frequency of these catastrophic events seems to increase with each passing year, leaving tribal communities in a constant state of vulnerability.

“We had to shift our mindset from ‘if’ disasters would strike to ‘when’ they would occur,” stated Loris Taylor, NPM’s president and CEO.

Recognizing the urgent need, NPM took a proactive approach and developed the Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) training, designed explicitly for Native radio and television stations across Indian Country. The comprehensive EOP training covers disaster management training from fire drills to emergency communication. Radio stations assess their strengths and weaknesses, highlighting areas that need improvement to be better equipped for emergencies. With the guidance of emergency management and first responders, the stations develop customized emergency operations plans to mitigate risks and respond effectively when disaster strikes.

NPM also developed a Kinship App. This innovative tool complements the EOP training, providing additional support for Indigenous communities. Using mobile phones, stations can respond to emergencies promptly and effectively by connecting directly with station staff and local emergency management teams. The goal is for stations to remain operational during emergencies and to broadcast vital information to the public.

“The Kinship App is a reminder that we are Kin to everyone, including the animals and plant life. We share ecosystems on mother earth,” Taylor stated. “We share a responsibility to keep tribal communities safe and resilient using assets we know best.”

On June 2nd, 2023, NPM staff arrived in Warm Springs, Oregon, to administer the EOP training to dedicated staff members from KWSO radio and three members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs’ Emergency Management team. On air since September 1986, KWSO brings local news and cultural programming to over 50,000 people in Jefferson County, with a primary focus on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. The radio station is vital in distributing information to the reservation during emergencies as part of the National Emergency Alert System (EAS).

Warm Springs is no stranger to the wrath of wildfires and flooding, making the EOP training even more critical for the community's safety and resilience. Neal Morningowl, the Operations Manager at KWSO, expressed his gratitude for the training, emphasizing its benefits to the radio station and the Warm Springs community.

"The training brought to light areas the station needs to improve to be prepared for a disaster," Morningowl said. "It identified where communication with emergency services can be worked on. The training will allow staff members to discuss the next steps the station needs to take to improve the emergency operations plan and ensure uninterrupted transmission during emergencies."

Inspired by the success in Warm Springs and other tribal communities, NPM will continue training throughout 2023, delivering emergency operations planning to more broadcast personnel. As the climate crisis looms larger, disasters continue to pose a threat to Indigenous communities across the land.

“The resilience of these communities is preparing for adversity head-on and working tirelessly to protect and serve our people,” concludes Melissa Begay, NPM’s lead EOP instructor.



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