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Tribal Stations Train for Emergencies

Native American radio stations have faced significant challenges in recent years due to both human-caused and natural disasters. In October 2018, burglars stole essential production equipment from the KYNR radio station on Yakama Indian Reservation in Toppenish, Washington. In December 2021, an arsonist set fire to the building that housed the KDKO radio station on the Yankton Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. More recently, in September 2022, a windstorm took down KCUK's 60-foot antenna, damaging the transmit antennas in Chevak, Alaska. These events resulted in the stations temporarily going off-air for up to a year.


To help mitigate events like these, Native Public Media is providing Station Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) training to broadcasters across Indian Country. The EOP training helps station personnel mitigate service disruption by developing a customized station emergency operations plan. Over twenty broadcast personnel and six radio station licensees have learned to save lives and property by participating in EOP training. NPM held two regional training labs in February and March 2023 for the Southwest region in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Northwest region in Pendleton, Oregon. NPM will offer four additional regional training labs in the next three months.


"KIYE has an existing EOP in place that I thought was good. After attending the training, I will be revising and adding to it. The training was informative and eye-opening," said Tom Williamson, KIYE Broadcast Technician. KIYE is the voice of the Nez Perce Nation in Lapwai, Idaho.


In 2017, NPM published its first Emergency Communications Guidebook as part of NPM's Emergency Response Program (ERP), which proved instrumental during the covid-19 pandemic. NPM is expanding its program by developing the Kinship App. Native stations will use the App to communicate locally and coordinate during emergencies or connect with stations in the Native Broadcast Network of sixty-plus stations across fifteen states.

Melissa Begay, the lead trainer for NPM's ERP program, emphasizes the importance of emergency preparedness and planning in preventing and managing human-caused or natural disasters such as extreme weather. "Improving the resiliency of tribal communities and broadcast stations is the goal of the ERP program," states Begay. "The EOP training offers a collaborative community approach to ensure the resiliency and sustainability of Tribal Nations who depend on the radio during emergencies and disasters."


Over the past six years, NPM trained over 150 broadcast personnel and first responders to effectively communicate with the public during a disaster and improve the quality of broadcast service to Native communities. Tribal radio stations serve as first informers of health and safety information, provide weather and hazard warnings, and represent an essential medium of local and national news, local programming, community-based events, and live broadcasts of sporting events, including entertainment.


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