Emergency Management

Tribal nations represent a unique and important sector of the U.S. emergency management system. Nineteen tribal nations are each larger than the state of Rhode Island, and twelve have a land base larger than the state of Delaware.

Tribal nations are often the only governmental presence in rural and isolated locations, serving as the first, and oftentimes only, law enforcement authority and emergency responders for hundreds of tribal and non-tribal communities in the United States. As such, tribal nations have broad emergency and first-responder responsibilities.

For the last several years, tribal nations have been impacted by natural disasters at devastating levels. NCAI has worked with tribal nations to provide information and support to many communities facing natural disasters. Additionally, fires, floods, tornadoes, and oil spills that originated outside tribal boundaries also affect tribal nations, and NCAI members have come forward to help both tribal and non-tribal communities that were impacted.

NCAI continues to advocate for the sovereign rights of tribal nations to seek and receive assistance when a nation’s internal capacity to deal with an emergency situation is overwhelmed. When Congress amended the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Act in 2013, it provided tribal nations with a path to request a presidential emergency or major disaster declaration. Tribal nations request disaster assistance to help save lives and rebuild their communities; however, they still face roadblocks when they attempt to declare disasters. To overcome these roadblocks, NCAI passed a resolution in 2019 calling on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to consult with tribal nations and initiate the formal rulemaking process for tribal disaster declarations.   

NCAI also continues to advocate for tribal nations to receive funding to build baseline capacities in their homeland security and emergency management programs. Tribal governments are continuously being left further and further behind in meeting the core capabilities and capacities that the federal government has provided funding to state and local governments for more than 50 years. An investment by the federal government to meet its trust responsibilities to tribal nations for their homeland security and emergency management needs is estimated to provide a return on investment of six dollars for every dollar invested. This will enable tribal nations to not only help more tribal citizens but also non-tribal citizens who reside within their jurisdiction during a man-made or natural disaster.

Beyond supporting tribal nations during times of crisis, NCAI focuses on proactively equipping tribal leaders before challenges arise. NCAI coordinates sessions at its conferences to assist leaders in the development and implementation of tribal homeland security and emergency management policies.

Testimony & Speeches

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