Senator Rounds and tribal leaders discuss emergency management needs

South Dakota reservations were vulnerable to winter disasters.
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 6:29 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - On Friday, Senator Mike Rounds, along with tribal leaders, talked about how to best prepare the reservation for natural disasters.

Late last winter, an intense blizzard swept across South Dakota, leaving some people vulnerable to the elements, especially on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Now, government officials are working alongside tribal leaders to help prevent this scale of disaster in the future.

“What I see in the future coming from this is no more loss of life during these emergencies. I see resources in place where they’re supposed to be in place. I see a good working relationship between the tribe, state, and the federal agencies coming from this,” said Peter Lengkeek, Chairman of the Great Crow Creek Sioux Tribe.

Currently, federal and state governments use The Incident Command System to help manage emergencies such as blizzards and tornadoes. It guides all levels of government to work together to prevent, respond and recover from natural disasters.

“It’s a matter of you have to be able to coordinate all of those different resources and if you understand the incident command system, then you know about all of the different resources and how they coordinate with one another. So what I want our chairmen to do is to go through and learn the incident command system, to learn where the resources are at and how you communicate with one another, and have those professionals on hand before you have the emergency,” said Senator Mike Rounds

During a seminar Tuesday, discussions took place on how to implement the system while having respect for the tribes and their sovereignty.

“Well if you talk about in advance before you have the emergency, then those individuals know one another, and they’re better able to respond when they know each other and they know whose responsibility it is, and they know where the resources are at,” Rounds continued.

FEMA, the state emergency management, and the Bureau of Military Information were also at the seminar to talk about the part they play in emergency management as well.