Jane Ann Vaccaro

Project title: Building Emergency Response Capacity with Northwest Tribes

Degree: MPH | Program: Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) | Project type: Project
Completed in: 2016 | Faculty advisor: Arnold de Castro


Title: Building Emergency Response Capacity with Northwest Tribes

Issue: Geographic isolation, climate change vulnerabilities, historical economic disadvantage and cultural connectedness to the environment place Northwest Tribal members at increased risk for poor outcomes in a disaster. Throughout Pacific Northwest history, disasters both natural and man-made have disrupted the lives of Tribal communities. The capacity and readiness of individual Tribes to withstand, respond to, and recover from disaster events is limited in part because of a lack of resources and training. The Northwest Tribal Emergency Management Council (NWTEMC) identified the development of Tribal-based Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units as important to build response capacity in a culturally-sensitive manner for each unique tribe and with an understanding of Tribal Sovereignty.

The MRC is a national network of local groups of volunteers, with a mission to engage the volunteers in activities that strengthen public health, reduce vulnerabilities and susceptibilities, lessen disaster risk, improve emergency preparedness, response and recovery capabilities, and build community resilience. NWTEMC hosts a collaborative Regional MRC Unit #1273 established in 2007. This regional unit is a valuable resource for both large and small tribes through consultation, outreach, and resource sharing.

Practicum Activities included: Served as the Unit #1273 MRC Coordinator, consulted with Tribal representatives regarding Tribal MRC units, presented on MRC at the 12th Annual Northwest and National Tribal Emergency Management Council conference, and developed a toolkit to assist Tribes to start and maintain MRC units. The student-led annual Technical Assistance Review with the Federal Region X MRC Coordinator and the Washington State Department of Health resulted in a significant increase in the unit’s compliance score and a clear outline of the required next steps to address gaps.

Recommendations include: secure funding for a Regional Tribal MRC Coordinator position, provide the toolkit to Tribal members, and broaden the scope of the Tribal MRC to address both traditional emergency response activities, and broader public health goals and initiatives aligned with national MRC objectives. Funding: In August 2015, NWTEMC began participating with The University of Washington DEOHS Continuing Education Department through a CDC-NIOSH Education and Research Center grant #2T42OH008433-11, and, NIH-NIEHS Worker Health and Safety Training Cooperative, Worker Education and Training