In collaboration with many local, state, and federal partners, the Northwest Tribal Emergency Management Council hosted the 14th Annual Regional Joint Tribal Emergency Preparedness Conference on 1-3 May 2017, at the Suquamish Indian Tribe’s center overlooking dxʷsəq̕ʷəb (“place of the clear salt water” in the Southern Lushootseed language) at Agate Pass in Puget Sound, Washington. Amateur radio operators from Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona all contributed to the success of this conference.
Radio amateurs affiliated with the Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management shared information with tribal emergency management leaders on how to establish and enhance amateur radio capabilities within their communities. Through seminars and live demonstrations, including a radio contact with a ham radio operator in Belgorod, Russia, attendees gathered information on valuable resources to help build tribal preparedness and response capabilities. The Quileute Nation, for example, made arrangements to hold a Technician License class for its tribal members. The following amateur radio licensees (call signs in parentheses) shared a variety of knowledge and experience with attendees:
- Suzanne Everson (KI7EGE), regional emergency management specialist at Region 10 Administration for Children and Families, discussed how this U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ division works with tribal nations to promote social and economic well-being of children and families.
- Lou Schmitz (KE7RYR) of the American Indian Health Commission (AIHC) presented information on the AIHC Tribal Community Emergency Preparedness Toolbox, which includes resources for mitigating, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from various disasters.
- Jim Sande (KG7NRF), Certified Emergency Manager and chair of the National Tribal Emergency Management Council’s Education Sub-Committee, addressed opportunities for continuing education to build emergency management knowledge and skills.
- Nathan Nixon (N7NAN), president of the National Tribal Amateur Radio Association (NTARA) and training coordinator for the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona, encouraged collaborative partnerships for improving communication through the Indian Country Intelligence Network.
- Tracy Depew (KI7EGC), director of emergency management for the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, shared details about how the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance External Stakeholder Working Group and Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program are assisting members in Indian country.
- Bart Kus (AE7SJ), founder and lead developer of HamWAN, spoke about communications resilience using a high-speed digital network operating on amateur radio service microwave frequencies, which is capable of providing continuous data exchange between key emergency management facilities within a region.
- Steve Aberle (WA7PTM), assistant state RACES officer, talked about the role of amateur radio operators activated under Emergency Support Function 2 (ESF #2 – Communications) in supporting ESF #6 (Mass Care) and ESF #8 (Public Health) during emergencies and disasters.
- Adam Geisler (KJ6YHN), regional tribal government liaison for FirstNet, moderated an interactive discussion on FirstNet’s progress toward creating this new nationwide public safety broadband network.
- Lynda Zambrano (KE7RWG), executive director of the Northwest and National Tribal Emergency Management Councils (NWTEMC–NTEMC), facilitated an open panel discussion between attendees and the NWTEMC-NTEMC board of directors.
The success of this conference would not have been possible without the extraordinary relationships that are being built by the NWTEMC-NTEMC and in partnership with both tribal and non-tribal amateur radio operators throughout the nation.
Steve Aberle, WA7PTM, is a FCC-licensed amateur radio operator and currently serves as the (volunteer) Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) liaison to the tribal communities in the State of Washington. He has been active in the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) since 1976 and in RACES since 1979. During his multifaceted career, he was a trooper with the Oregon State Police, a county emergency communications director, a data network manger, and a cybersecurity consultant. He has over four decades of experience in volunteer emergency communications planning, training, responses, mentoring, and exercise evaluation, and is a former mountaineering and search and rescue leader and instructor.