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Evacuation exercise conducted in preparation for Navajo Nation Presidential Inauguration

6/1/2015 12:00 AM

More than 5,000 people attended the Navajo Nation Presidential Inauguration ceremony in May, but few in the audience knew about the advance preparation and planning for potential emergencies that occurred beforehand.

The Navajo Nation Department of Emergency Management, event staff and CERT teams worked together to ensure the safety and security of the attendees and officials, including Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez.

TEEX training provided to the Navajo Nation since 2013 helped them prepare for the event, said Hank Lawson, Director of TEEX’s National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center. Members of the Navajo Nation have attended Sports and Special Events Incident Management training, he added, which provided the basis for the mock evacuation exercise recently conducted in preparation for the inauguration at the Fighting Scouts Events Center in Fort Defiance, AZ.

“The event staff held a mock inauguration, with Window Rock High School students dressed as the President and Vice President and as VIP attendees,” said Rose Whitehair, Director of the Department of Emergency Management for the Navajo Nation. “We then evacuated the students from vast areas of the new event center, and then re-evacuated them from where the VIPs would be seated. It was amazing to see all these different programs come together to complete the same task.”

Lawson said TEEX has trained more than 250 participants in several DHS/FEMA-funded courses hosted in Apache County, AZ, home of the Navajo Nation, in the past two years. Courses included MGT-318 Public Information in an All-Hazards Incident (PIO), MGT-345 Disaster Management for Electric Power Systems, PER-211 Medical Management for CBRNE Events, and PER-212 Operational Level Response to HazMat/WMD Incidents.

In March 2014, the Department of Emergency Management also hosted the DHS/FEMA-funded Senior Officials Workshop (MGT-312) delivered by TEEX, which was so well-attended that the class overflowed with 61 attendees, Whitehair said. "We didn't turn anyone away," she added. "We asked all who wanted to learn to stay in the class, regardless whether they had a (course) notebook or not. It goes to prove how much training is needed in our Tribal communities."

“At the Inauguration, we had roughly 5,000 attendees, 700 VIPs and 200 event staff, including our Tribal CERT Teams,” Whitehair said. “The Inauguration came together quite well. It helps to have everyone NIMS-trained because it brings everyone together on the same page. Everyone knows where they fit into the ICS system and who their lead is. The most amazing thing about this is that usually Event Staff have months or up to a year to plan for Inaugurations. We came together and made it happen in a couple of weeks.”

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Kathy Fraser

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