Navajo Nation, Emergency Operation Center responding to weather-related emergency needs

Floodwaters flow along a road at an unidentified location within the Bird Springs Chapter last week. Many chapters in northern Arizona and New Mexico have been hit hard by recent heavy snowstorms (Photo by Lt. Emerson Lee, NPD).

Floodwaters flow along a road at an unidentified location within the Bird Springs Chapter last week. Many chapters in northern Arizona and New Mexico have been hit hard by recent heavy snowstorms (Photo by Lt. Emerson Lee, NPD).

EOC rescuers successful in reaching those with critical health, medical needs

WINDOW ROCK - The Emergency Operation Center's successes last week included the rescue of an elderly dialysis patient in Apache County who was pre-comatose when emergency personnel reached him. Another Apache County rescue involved a female whose husband walked eight miles to the Chapter house and reported that she needed medical assistance. An NTUA snow cat was dispatched around 9 p.m. to the residence along with a team of law enforcement and fire department personnel, a Community Health Representative (CHR) and a Public Health Nurse (PHN). The snow cat reached the residence and the elderly woman was transported to a waiting ambulance at 11:45 p.m. then transported to the Fort Defiance Hospital.

The Strike Teams went to Chinle, Shiprock and Fort Defiance Agency Tuesday morning to make 10 assessments in the most remote areas of Sawmill, Redlake and Oaksprings Chapters. The residents were asked to indicate needs by color. Red means there is a "critical" medical emergency, green for fuel and blue is for water and food.

EOC advises the public to use an alternate route if the road home is muddy during afternoon hours. Make sure you have survival gear in case you get stuck in the mud. People should have a shovel, tire chains, blankets, extra winter clothing, dry socks, appropriate footwear, food, water, flash light with extra batteries, matches, dry wood and make sure that cell phones are fully charged. Include a phone number of a tow service because Navajo Nation vehicles cannot be used to pull private vehicles out of the mud due to liability issues.

Chapters are encouraged to document all activities related to emergency response and expenditures. Community members who need assistance must call the chapter first. The chapter will then ask for additional resources based on need from the Emergency Operation Center.

Graders are scheduled to continue grading secondary and residential roads.

Emergency response priorities are medical needs, roads and food and water.

The weather will get warmer and create additional problems from snow melt. The nights will be cold with single digit temperatures possible. People are advised to dress according to weather conditions.

EOC color codes popular with emergency response teams at Navajo Reservation communities

WINDOW ROCK - The color codes presently being used by the Navajo Nation Emergency Operation Center's (EOC) Strike Team is being adopted by chapters that are assessing their communities. The color codes are red, green and blue.

Red is to be used for extreme medical emergencies. This means a person at a residence is in unstable condition and in need of immediate medical attention. Some examples of an unstable person means, but is not limited to: if a person is unconscious, having breathing difficulties, uncontrollable bleeding, experiencing an allergic reaction, severe burns or in a situation where a medical practitioner has determined an individual is in need of immediate medical attention.

Green is to be used to indicate an extreme need for fuel, meaning firewood, propane, or coal. Finally, blue is to be used to indicate an extreme need for food and water.

These color codes are directed at people in remote areas where access is impossible due to deep snow or very muddy conditions which limits access to supplies. Some families are also without transportation in the areas targeted for assessments by the Strike Team. Assessed were 10 families within the Chinle, Fort Defiance and Shiprock agencies. They visited Sawmill, Red Lake and Oak Springs chapters as a follow up to a list of families submitted to the EOC.

The Strike Team will assess the Fort Defiance Agency communities of White Clay, Pine Springs, the Summit and Sawmill based on assessments and action plans to assist these families.

Chapters must submit assessments to the EOC located in the Navajo Training Center.

Chapter governments are also advised to document all emergency response activities including equipment used, personnel who worked, their hours, expenses and who responded to requests for assistance. Because of the expenses related to emergency response, the EOC and Navajo Nation government are urging documentation.

Road clearing activities are scheduled to continue on main routes, secondary and residential routes upon requests received and prioritized.

Firewood supplies are limited at this time but the Department of Water Resources is working with the EOC providing trucks to haul wood purchased from T and R, located along Highway 491 north of Gallup, directly to those chapters that purchased the firewood.

The EOC encourages safety practices in all emergency response activities. People should dress appropriately and plan with weather conditions in mind. It is muddy and some areas still have up to four feet of snow.

The most impacted communities are along the Chuska Mountains and the Defiance Plateau. Communities with very little weather impact are Cameron, Tuba City, Tohajilee and Alamo.

Slow but steady progress at Navajo Nation Emergency Operation Center

WINDOW ROCK - Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) in Window Rock and Crownpoint, N.M. are flooded with calls daily. Direct communication with chapters is in full swing, making the process of emergency response much easier. Much of the requests for assistance is related to fuel. Some chapters are purchasing firewood from vendors such as

T and R Market north of Gallup, N.M.

Navajo Department of Transportation (NDOT) graders are out in force at seven separate locations maintaining roads. NDOT is working closely with communities impacted by the recent snowstorms in Pinedale, N.M., Sweetwater, Teec Nos Pos, Pinon, Low Mountain, Ganado, and Cross Canyon. Navajo County graders are assisting with the roads in the Greasewood and Dilcon communities.

The Eastern Agency EOC at Crownpoint, N.M. is advising that all emergency calls come through their operation at (505) 786-2012. The centralized system with calls will help make monitoring emergencies easier.

A dispatcher has been assigned to the Window Rock EOC with a radio base station inside the Navajo Division of Health Mobile Unit. This will reduce calls flooding the Navajo Police Department dispatch regarding weather related emergencies. The selection of a frequency will be dedicated solely to responders. The NDOH Mobile Unit serves a dual purpose and will be used for executive meetings.

Navajo Nation divisions and departments are honoring the Emergency Declaration by sending volunteers and resources to the EOC whom are very grateful for the support and working relationship established.

Night-time temperatures are expected to be in the single digits, daytime temperatures will range from the mid 30s to the 40s. The public is advised to dress appropriately for the weather and to practice wise planning for winter travel by packing survival gear at all times.

Speaker Morgan encourages chapter cooperation in addressing emergency assistance

WINDOW ROCK - Honorable Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan (Iyanbito/Pinedale) and the Navajo Nation Council are encouraging chapter cooperation in addressing the emergency situation the Navajo Nation is currently experiencing.

The Office of the Speaker is working in cooperation with the Office of the President and Vice President (OPVP), the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the Navajo Department of Health to assist Navajo families affected by recent weather-related emergency conditions.

Emergency task force workers continue to work late into the night assisting families with situations caused by current conditions around the reservation. The OEM workers are currently operating out of a modular facility called the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) situated at the Navajo Nation Training Center in Window Rock.

The EOM and the Office of the Speaker continue to receive calls from citizens complaining that their needs are not being addressed by their chapters. Therefore, Speaker Morgan is encouraging the chapters to do what they can to assist our Navajo people and is also encouraging Navajo people to continue to seek assistance from their local chapters.

Lorie Lee, Deputy Public Information Officer with EOM, hopes that more attention will be brought to the public about the emergency situations that are occurring.

"We need to bring this situation to the attention of the local community leaders and chapter officials - they need to take this situation seriously," she said.

"Chapters should be dealing with these circumstances," Speaker Morgan said. "They should be doing assessments of what the Navajo people need."

Lee explained that this is only the beginning, because run-off from the melting snow will continue to occur. This will eventually turn the landscape to mud.

Lee added that complaints about chapter officials and chapter coordinators continue to flood their inbound call center. The majority of the complaints deal with the lack of involvement of the local chapters.

Lee explained that the conditions and problems will continue to occur until a plan is put in place by the local chapters to address this emergency situation.

Speaker Morgan said that our Navajo people need help out there and the people that really need the assistance are not getting it.

"There are people out there that have critical medical needs. They are the main ones that should be receiving help from the chapters," he said.

The chapters should be making attempts to put an emergency plan in place and to open up communication with various outlets across the Navajo Nation. Chapter contacts should be established and this should be available after hours as well.

According to Lee, the EOC will continue to operate their emergency management command post and are willing to offer technical support and supplemental support to the chapters.

The EOM is willing to continue to educate the chapter officials out there and Lee said that the EOM is there for them.

It was also explained that the chapters have received the funds, but there is no emergency action plan to expedite it. The EOM does not have the direct funds to help the chapters' constituents.

Lee was excited to report that several Council Delegates visited the EOM this past week and offered their encouragement and expressed appreciation for the hard work that the EOM is doing on behalf of the Navajo people.

Lee said that a lot of chapters do not know what to do and the EOM is able to assist chapters in areas that they cannot cover, but chapters should make all attempts to remedy the emergencies of their citizens.

"Chapters need to put their emergency action plans together and do all they can to utilize their resources and their funds to help our Navajo people," Speaker Morgan said. "Chapters should not be turning the Navajo people away, they should be doing all they can to help them."

Speaker Morgan and the 21st Navajo Nation Council thank the staff manning the Emergency Operations Center.

"The EOM has undertaken a tremendous task to help our Navajo people," he said.

Morgan thanks the chapters that have quickly initiated plans to help people during this emergency. Lee mentioned that the chapters of Sawmill, Dilkon and Greasewood Springs are just a few chapters that have organized and pulled together resources to help our Navajo people.

Speaker Morgan also thanks the efforts of BHP Billiton for providing coal to the three Navajo communities of Newcomb, Shiprock and Huerfano. BHP Billiton provided coal free of charge and assisted with loading two belly-dump trailers.

Chad Pfeiffer, Tribal Governmental Affairs Representative with BHP Billiton, said that they are currently processing further requests to meet the needs of Navajo citizens. The company regularly provides local chapters with coal during the winter months.

Norman Benally of BHP Billiton added that the company is pleased to be able to offer assistance and support to the communities during these difficult times.

"Our work is not yet completed," Speaker Morgan added. "There is still more assistance needed in the remote areas. Our Navajo people are in need of wood and the chapters should be resourceful in providing assistance to those in dire need."

According to a press release from the EOM, emergency response priorities are medical needs, roads, food, and water.

For more information, contact Joshua Lavar Butler with the Office of the Speaker at (928) 871-6384.

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