When severe weather strikes, the difference between life and death can be summed up in as little as two words: be prepared. Making a plan for what you and your family will do when severe weather strikes is an important step in being prepared and building a Weather-Ready Nation.

As part of National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, NOAA and FEMA urge everyone to develop a Family Emergency Plan. Before disaster strikes, sit down with your family and decide how you will get in contact with each other, where you will go and what you will do in case of an emergency.

While there are basic elements that should be a part of any plan, it’s important to also tailor your plan to the individual needs of you or your family. This is especially important for the elderly or those with disabilities or special medial or dietary needs.

As part of tailoring your plans, consider working with others to create networks of neighbors, relatives, friends and co-workers who will assist each other in an emergency. Discuss your needs and responsibilities and how people in the network can assist each other with communication, care of children, pets, or specific needs like the operation of durable medical equipment. Create your own personal network for specific areas where you need assistance.

We are asking all our Tribal member households to update their addresses, contact information and notify us of their safe rooms or storm shelters. This last piece of information is important in the event of a disaster, the Nation can make contact with them to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

In extreme circumstances, CPN could provide local authorities information about the location of the shelters if Tribal members are trapped inside. Given the catastrophic events in the recent past, there have been many Tribal members affected by disasters in Oklahoma, but around the country as well.

Because of the unique status of a Tribal Nation’s jurisdiction, the CPN can assist members in receiving assistance from many different resources even if they are out of state.

Another reason to have our members fill out the census inquiry on our website (http://census.potawatomi.org/) is to enable the Nation to have the accurate numbers in order to pursue numerous grant opportunities.

Because of the devastating effects of last year’s severe weather and the number of tribal members affected, CPN was selected to apply for grant funding for tribal members that would provide assistance with the costs and labor of a safe room installation. One of the grant opportunities we have recently applied for is for individual safe rooms. If the Nation is awarded the grant, we would be able to provide a substantial portion of the cost of a safe room to those who qualify.

If that grant is awarded, the Nation will send the requirements for the grant process and application out in a later Hownikan.