Remote Alaskan communities get emergency preparedness training

 Alaskan Edna Savetilik attends training last month at the Center for Domestic Preparedness.
Alaskan Edna Savetilik attends training last month at the Center for Domestic Preparedness. | Courtesy of FEMA

Residents from Shaktoolik, Alaska, who are facing calamities courtesy of Mother Nature, took part in emergency preparedness training at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alaska, last month.

Shaktoolik is a small village on a small piece of land in the Bering Sea, surrounded on all sides by the Tagoomenik River and Norton Sound. The community is made up of 250 Alaska natives who live off of the resources in the immediate area, as their ancestors did before them. It is a remote community, 38 miles from the next town and a full 125 miles from Nome, Alaska. It is a stop on the Iditarod Race route.

It is a community that has come under threat from coastal flooding and coastal erosion. In 2009, the federal government named it as one of four communities in Alaska that will likely need to vacate entirely.

For Edna Savetilik and 22 other individuals representing 12 Native American tribes, this educational opportunity is crucial, giving these people the chance to learn how to manage and respond to emergency situations.

“We are looking for ways that we can prepare for the flood, instead of reacting to it,” Savetilik said.

The center's Western Region coordinator, David Hall, said tribal governments face challenges that cities and counties wouldn't necessarily face. He said a lack of resources is just one of several major issues these isolated communities face.

“When they train together in a cohort, it gives the tribal students an opportunity to network within the emergency-response realm and discuss issues that are more intrinsic to their culture and communities,” Hall said.

For now, the town's residents have opted to stay and combat the floods and erosion.

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Center for Domestic Preparedness - FEMA

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