Tribal Government Emergency Agencies and Planning Processes
The Oneida Nation, for example, has an Emergency Management Department focused on preparing for, mitigating, responding to and facilitating recovery from disasters or emergencies impacting the Oneida Reservation. Some tribes also have policies and agreements in place to facilitate engagement with state and local government leaders and private entities, including local utilities, in order to obtain support and resources needed to recover more quickly.
Several tribes have come together to form planning committees designed to support emergency response. For example, in Nevada, 27 federally recognized tribes formed a Nevada Tribal Emergency Coordinating Council to provide support for all hazards emergency management and advise the Nevada Division of Emergency Management in responding to emergencies on tribal lands. Oklahoma also formed an Inter-Tribal Emergency Management Coalition. The coalition includes tribal emergency management agencies and representatives from more than 22 tribes with lands in Oklahoma as well as state officials.
To help tribes facilitate the emergency planning process, FEMA provides resources that are specific to tribal government preparation and planning processes. The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs also manages a National Emergency Management Tribal Assistance Coordination Group that supports tribes in responding to and recovering from emergencies. Additionally, the Northwest Tribal Emergency Management Council offers all hazards emergency management guidance to Northwest member tribes and the Tribal Emergency Management Association offers training and support to establish partnerships between tribes and local, state and federal entities to advance emergency management. Some tribes also use FEMA’s National Incident Management System to guide their emergency response efforts.
FEMA’s National Response Framework (NRF) is a comprehensive federal approach to emergency response, which aims to unify responses across levels of government and guide how the country responds to emergencies and disasters. The NRF includes 15 Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) that provide the structure for coordinating response efforts. ESF-12 is focused on energy. DOE is the lead ESF-12 agency and is responsible for facilitating the restoration of damaged energy systems, coordinating with FEMA, states and the private sector. If damage to energy infrastructure leads to an oil or hazardous materials spill, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency leads efforts to coordinate cleanup under its role as ESF-10 coordinator. Engagement between tribes and lead federal agencies under the relevant energy ESFs is critical to ensuring a timely response. While the focus on repairing energy infrastructure and delivering energy resources remains largely the same across state and tribal emergency planning, the extent to which a tribe adopts ESFs or assigns coordinating agencies responsible for delivering resources varies across jurisdictions.
Some tribal governments have enacted laws creating agencies to help coordinate disaster services with state and federal offices.
The Navajo Nation, with lands in the Southwestern U.S., enacted tribal code provisions establishing a Commission on Emergency Management to work with the Navajo Department of Emergency Management to coordinate the delivery of services during emergencies and disasters (2 NAVAJO CODE § 883). The commission also has the power to coordinate goods and services, equipment, vehicles and personnel during a declared emergency (2 NAVAJO CODE § 884).
The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, with lands in the Southeastern U.S., enacted tribal code provisions establishing an Office of Emergency Management as the coordinating agency for emergencies and tasking a program manager with planning and coordinating activities regarding emergency management. The program manager is required to “maintain liaison” with local, state and federal authorities (Eastern Band Cherokee Indians Code §§ 166-1; 166-3; 166-4).
Planning Process and Documents
In addition to designating specific agencies or commissions to help coordinate efforts during emergencies, some tribes have developed requirements around comprehensive emergency management plans to aid in coordinating with state and federal officials during disasters.
The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation’s tribal code requires development and maintenance of Comprehensive Emergency Management plans. It requires the program manager (described above) to develop and implement plans for facility use that protect and restore public utilities and other services during times of emergency. The manager must broadly coordinate with federal, state, local and private entities to ensure emergency management plans are carried out effectively (Eastern Band Cherokee Indians Code § 166-5; 166-4). The Emergency Management Office develops plans to reduce community hazard vulnerabilities and focuses on decreasing potential impacts of disasters in addition to response and recovery.
The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, with lands in the Northwestern U.S., implement a comprehensive emergency management plan during disasters. The plan prioritizes coordination with local government authorities and notes the Confederated Colville Tribes should have the capacity and infrastructure to manage the disaster impacts on the reservation “with little or no outside help for at least three days.” The plan identifies “energy infrastructure repair and restoration” as priorities under its energy-related ESF-12 annex in the event of widespread power outages. Specifically, the plan identifies accessing emergency generators, staff to connect generators to critical infrastructure and necessary fuel as priority areas. Fuel deliveries are particularly vital for powering generators and fueling vehicles. The plan also identifies utilities, electric co-ops and utility districts as resources for response.
The Blackfeet Nation, with lands in the Northwestern U.S., has an Emergency Operations Plan that includes an Energy Annex for ESF-12, which identifies potential impacts when energy infrastructure is damaged by severe disasters, including prolonged power failure affecting communications and other lifeline services. The Energy Annex outlines preparedness directives, including maintaining a directory of utility services and energy products, creating priorities surrounding “damaged energy services” and backup portable generators, and promoting agreements for mutual assistance, among other initiatives. It also outlines directives for a response, including, but not limited to, prioritizing utility rebuilding, and applying federal, state and local resources to restore services.
The Suquamish Tribe, with lands in the Pacific Northwestern U.S., has a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan for “coordinating its emergency management responsibilities.” The plan describes the role and responsibilities of the Tribal Emergency Response Commission and Emergency Management Coordinator and how the tribe’s emergency management staff interface with the tribe’s ESF structure. The plan also highlights the tribe’s local partners and the role of “mutual-aid and inter-local agreements” in providing resources to support the tribe’s emergency response capabilities. For example, the plan lists Puget Sound Energy, a utility that supplies natural gas and electricity, as a local partner. Additionally, the plan notes that in restoring critical infrastructure, the “Tribe’s emergency management staff will maintain active communication with [utilities and other critical service providers] in an effort to assure their restoration of these critical services are appropriately prioritized and coordinated.”
The Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, with lands in the Northwestern U.S., have an Emergency Operations Plan with an ESF-12 section acknowledging that the Flathead Reservation is vulnerable to hazards that could disrupt power supply and utility operations. It further details that such disruptions could reduce capacity to respond to an emergency and result in a slow recovery. The ESF-12 response requires rebuilding activities necessary to restore utility services be prioritized, among other objectives. The Disaster and Emergency Services program is the designated ESF coordinator responsible for working with local utilities and coordinating regulation of utility services and usage during shortages to ensure available supply is directed to meet essential needs, among other responsibilities.
The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, with lands in the Northwestern U.S., have an Emergency Operations Plan that includes an ESF-12 annex focused on restoring energy infrastructure after a disaster. The plan designates the Public Utilities Branch as the primary agency under ESF-12. Area utilities and the CTWS’s Chief Operations Officer are supporting entities. Among its ESF-12 responsibilities, the Public Utilities Branch works with local facilities to restore energy infrastructure, coordinates “temporary emergency power generation capabilities” to supply energy to critical facilities, and maintains the tribe’s ESF-12 plans and procedures. Additionally, the ESF-12 annex contains a section on preparedness, which highlights promoting mutual assistance agreements with utility service vendors.
There are also mandatory planning documents tribes must submit to access certain types of direct federal assistance from FEMA during and after a disaster.
- Tribal Mitigation Plans—Tribes are required to have a FEMA-approved mitigation plan in order to receive certain types of disaster funding directly. Note that for a number of programs, including public assistance funds that support repairs to damaged utility infrastructure, no mitigation plan is required by FEMA if the tribe receives funds as a subrecipient through the state in which it is located.
- Public Assistance Administrative Plans—Tribes must also submit a disaster-specific administrative plan that meets minimum requirements before FEMA will release funding following a Major Disaster Declaration or Emergency Declaration.
- Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) Administrative Plans—Tribes must submit hazard mitigation administrative plans for FEMA review and approval prior to receiving HMGP funds allocated for reducing the risk of repeated damage from future events. Example: Samish Indian Nation’s Hazard Mitigation Plan Draft.
- Other Needs Assistance (ONA) Administrative Planning—If a tribe elects to be the sole or joint administrator of ONA, then the tribe must submit a Tribal Administrative Plan every three years describing how the tribe will use ONA funds.