RAPID CITY –Disaster readiness is a reasonably new concept in the Great Plains region. The newly created We Are Warriors EOC is trying to communicate its importance –while dealing with a global pandemic.
The We Are Warriors EOC first opened its doors in May of 2019. Since then, the new emergency operations center (EOC) has helped tribal governments, communities, and citizens respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in many ways.
A typical Thursday for staff at We Are Warriors begins with a check-in at 8:30 AM. The team of public health and direct care specialists discuss any new developments that may have occurred overnight that may impact the day’s mission. A quick epidemiological update is provided, and then it is on to the day’s tasks.
Since it is Thursday, staff quickly mobilize dozens of food baskets that are to be delivered to families in Rapid City who are suffering from COVID-19. This routine has repeated itself every Thursday for months. So far, We are Warriors has distributed more than 750 of these baskets to families in need.
With the help of a grant from the Centers for Disease Control, the Great Plains Tribal Leaders’ Health Board launched the We Are Warriors EOC. Its primary goal is to help tribal nations improve their disaster readiness. While that is still the EOC’s primary function, the COVID-19 pandemic forced staff from across the Great Plains Tribal Leaders’ Health Board network to take on far more than initially planned.
Generally, an EOC brings together highly trained experts and state-of-the-art technology to coordinate resources, information, and crisis and emergency risk communication in response to a disaster. The COVID-19 public health crisis has tested the newly created entity’s capacity. This has presented many staff members an opportunity to pick up new skills while helping their fellow community members navigate these difficult times.
“Our staff has been asked to take on tasks and positions that they likely never envisioned for themselves. Their willingness to do whatever is necessary has made it possible for our relatives to access basics, like food and shelter. Also, access to public health resources, including testing and PPE, has helped many tribes better handle the virus,” said CEO Jerilyn Church.
The EOC’s creation has allowed more than fifty staff members to earn valuable disaster readiness training. Virtual classes offered to tribal organizations have paired with existing public health, and medical talents have boosted their effectiveness.
“It really is a team effort. We have individuals who may work as the Logistic Chief in the morning then turn around to return to their job in the clinic in the afternoon. “We have staff that may typically spend their time at a desk, who are providing services to those in need within the community,” said Annie Lloyd, an emergency management consultant to the health board.
The EOC has hosted several mass-testing events in Rapid City, provided extensive support to the community, and has collaborated with many entities to soften COVID-19’s adverse impact.
Food baskets 750
Cleaning Kits 350
Face Shields: 9746
N-95 Masks: 20,000
Cloth Masks: 10,000
Digital Thermometers: 5,000
Surgical Masks: 82,000
KN-95 Masks: 17,000
Med/Care Packs: 7,500
Isolation Gowns: 6,711
Infrared Thermometers: 500