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Supporting Tribes in Emergency Response

Three faculty members from NWCPHP gave presentations at the 7th Annual Tribal Emergency Preparedness Conference, Bridging the Gap: Public Health & Emergency Management, hosted by the Chehalis Tribe September 28–30, 2010. Faculty member Randy Beaton gave a plenary presentation, "Psychological First Aid: Applications for American Indians" describing ways of helping children, adolescents, adults, and families (tribal and nontribal) in the immediate aftermath of disaster.
Supporting Tribes in Emergency Response

Susan Allan describes the Arlington County, Virginia, health department's role in 9/11.

October 11, 2010

Three faculty members from NWCPHP gave presentations at the 7th Annual Tribal Emergency Preparedness Conference, Bridging the Gap: Public Health & Emergency Management, hosted by the Chehalis Tribe September 28–30, 2010.

Faculty member Randy Beaton gave a plenary presentation, "Psychological First Aid: Applications for American Indians" describing ways of helping children, adolescents, adults, and families (tribal and nontribal) in the immediate aftermath of disaster.

Faculty member Andy Stergachis and colleague Don Downing gave a presentation, "Partnering with community pharmacists to better prepare and respond in an emergency."

NWCPHP director, Susan Allan, gave a plenary talk on the final day, "Traditional Emergency Responders and Public Health: challenges and cross-cultural communications."

American Indian tribes and individuals have both strengths and vulnerabilities that help or hinder in a disaster. Tribes may be more prepared than other Americans to respond to the crisis, because close-knit communities, customs and rituals, and sharing food and shelter are part of "the Indian way," Dr. Beaton said. On the other hand, American Indians have had life experiences that can make them more susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other consequences, making it important for public health agencies to work with elders and provide culturally competent services in the aftermath of a disaster.

Dr. Stergachis and Dr. Downing described the potential for working with community pharmacists for emergency preparedness and response. While pharmacists are located in virtually every community, and the public often go to them first with questions about flu and other health conditions, other professionals don’t always think of pharmacists or include them in emergency planning and response. They suggested enhanced roles for pharmacists in planning, detection and reporting of events, communicating with the public, and responding to emergencies through the distribution of medications and administration of vaccines, and advocated for establishing both formal and informal linkages between tribal emergency preparedness personnel and pharmacists who are located in their communities.

Dr. Allan noted that this was the first tribal preparedness conference that was organized to bring together the traditional emergency responders and the public health preparedness community. She acknowledged that because the people in the room have been working in tribal settings, many of them have worked with principles of cultural competency, and she suggested that they recognize that these same principles apply to the challenges of communication between public health professionals and traditional first responders. The presentation identified examples of differences in training, protocols and terminology that can lead to confusion or even conflict and undermine the ability to work together effectively on behalf of their communities. Drawing from the cultural competency field, she offered guidelines for reducing miscommunication and frustration: Slow down, break complex discussions or instructions into smaller parts, check that you understand and were understood, avoid slang, and assume good will.

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