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Getting Ready in Indian Country

Emergency Preparedness and Response for Native American Cultural Resources

Emergency preparedness has become an increasingly important focus for historic sites and cultural institutions alike. But some tribal cultural organizations and heritage caretakers still lack access to the resources and relationships that would help them become well prepared for any emergency.

Getting Ready in Indian Country is an invitation to consider emergency preparedness specifically for Native American interests. Developed with support from the National Park Service and the Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance of the Department of the Interior, this initiative is intended to advance emergency preparedness, stimulate discussion, and inspire new projects for the care and protection of tribal heritage.

It has three parts:

  • A brief report offers a national overview of the issues and suggests ways to better protect tribal cultural heritage from disasters. The recommendations cover funding, capacity-building, outreach, research needs, and relationships with emergency management agencies.
  • The online inventory of disaster resources for cultural heritage provides access to a wide variety of materials on the protection of cultural heritage, emergency management practice and policies, and tribal programs.
  • Preparedness discussion questions for tribal archives, museums, libraries, and culture centers are designed to spark conversations on getting ready for emergencies. The six basic questions can be used at tribal gatherings, workshops, or staff meetings.

The primary audiences for Getting Ready in Indian Country are the Native Americans who are the stewards of their peoples’ heritage and the non-native cultural community, public safety officials, and agencies that provide services and funding for tribal projects.

Getting Ready in Indian Country is a project originally developed by Heritage Preservation, Inc., on behalf of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, with a grant from the National Park Service and with support and guidance from the Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance, U.S. Department of the Interior.  


The 2010 report "Getting Ready in Indian Country" provided a national overview of many of the issues encountered by Native American cultural heritage institutions in the face of natural disasters and other emergencies.


This inventory is a tool for anyone seeking information on emergency preparedness for tribal and other cultural property. It is a compilation of both native and non-native resources. The list provides a starting point for accessing a wide variety of materials on the protection of cultural heritage, emergency management practice and policies, and tribal programs.

6 Preparedness Discussion Questions

for Tribal Archives, Museums, Libraries, Cultural Centers, and Others Entrusted with Protecting Cultural Heritage

  1. Communication is one of the most important elements in responding to an emergency. If cultural resources in your care are threatened or damaged by flood, fire, wind, or other events, who will be available to help? Can you contact them easily? Are your emergency phone numbers up to date?
  2. What are the tribe’s priorities for rescuing cultural resources and important records? Have these priorities been communicated to your colleagues and other people you may need in an emergency?
  3. Have you walked in and around buildings and sites to look for risks to your resources – potential leaks, electrical problems or other fire hazards, blocked exits, collections stored below ground level? Did a public safety official accompany you?
  4. Emergency management agencies and fire departments are essential to emergency response, and they expect to take charge after major incidents. Do you know who will help you in emergencies? Are they aware of your important cultural resources and how they should be handled?
  5. Having supplies on hand to deal with emergencies is essential. Do you have a cache of items such as tarps, flashlights, and absorbent towels?
  6. Are you aware of information and training resources to help you prepare for emergencies? The “Inventory of Disaster Resources for Cultural Heritage” has links for emergency planning, risk assessments, disaster supplies, and tips for working with emergency responders.