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Red Guide to Disaster Recovery Releases Native American Edition

Date: 2015-09-08
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Via Indian Country Today Media Network

In 2015, the Colville Reservation in Washinghton State is the latest victim of massive wildfires in Indian country. Photo via InciWeb

It’s no secret that American Indian tribes are facing the brunt of the climate crisis, and that this often takes the form of dealing with disasters. What might not be so well known is a resource that helps disaster victims navigate the aftermath.
The Red Guide to Recovery Resource Handbook for Disaster Survivors, a longstanding guide that gets distributed to fire departments and other assistance organizations, also has a version specifically geared toward tribal public safety. Compiled by Adam Geisler of the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, and Sean Scott, restoration contractor, The Red Guide to Recovery Resource Handbook for Disaster Survivors in a Native American and Alaskan Native Edition was originally conceived to help local tribes deal with the aftermath of reoccurring regional wildfires. The Guide empowers tribal victims of any disaster with the knowledge they need to become survivors.

“What most people don't realize is when first responders leave the scene of a disaster, the survivors are left to figure out their recovery on their own,” the authors write in the Guide’s introductory statement. “For those who lost homes or are displaced, this can be the beginning of a nightmare. Most disaster survivors don't know what to do, who to trust or where to turn for help in the days, weeks, and months following a disaster.”

Some of those hardest hit by California’s raging wildfires in years past have been the reservations that found themselves in the direct path of an unstoppable inferno that transformed beautiful lands, sacred sites, and communities into what looked like a moonscape. One of those reservations was the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, which in 2007 lost 33 percent of their homes to the Poomacha Fire, leaving many residents homeless. It was in the weeks and months following these events that many grief stricken survivors found they were unable to rebuild or return home.

“In 2007, I witnessed over 93 percent of my reservation burn to the ground, leaving my 87-year-old grandmother homeless with no belongings; my uncle, cousins and neighbors left with only the shirts on their backs, and my tribal community looking for answers on where to begin after losing everything they owned,” said Geisler.

For his part, Scott — a San Diego resident and second-generation fire restoration contractor — witnessed the devastation wrought by the massive wildfires in 2003 and 2007 and created a recovery road map that first responders could distribute to residents immediately after a disaster to help walk them systematically through the recovery process.

Currently used by fire departments, emergency management agencies, relief organizations, and many others engaged in disaster preparedness and recovery, The Red Guide to Recovery is the only resource of its kind, designed specifically to walk disaster survivors step-by-step through the recovery process, covering a wide range of topics, including how to avoid scams, how to handle insurance claims, safety tips, hazardous material precautions, smoke and water damage issues, trauma intervention and grief counseling, and much more.

After creation of the original Guide in 2009, Scott teamed up with Geisler, the tribal council secretary for the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, who was instrumental in the recovery of his community from the Poomacha fire. Geisler facilitated communications between tribal, state and federal agencies to reconstruct the La Jolla Reservation, which included the rebuilding of 39 homes and the restoration of critical infrastructure that had been destroyed.

“I watched martial law and military forces enter our reservation to secure what was left of it,” Geisler said. “I worked directly with several government agencies such as FEMA, and community and faith based groups like the American Red Cross and the Southern Baptists to sift through the ashes and start over from scratch.”

By pooling their expertise and experience, Geisler and Scott have produced a customized version of The Native American & Alaska Native Edition of the Red Guide to Recovery. Geisler has championed publication and distribution of the handbook with funding assistance from tribal organizations and the county of San Diego.

This year with the support of the Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association, the Inter-Tribal Long Term Recovery Foundation, the Pala, and Barona Bands of Mission Indians, the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, and San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn, a unique partnership was formed. Working together, these partners were able to bring The Red Guide to Recovery to all 17 tribes, as well as fire departments throughout San Diego County.

Read the full story here at ICTMN

For more information, see

- Books/ (via ICTMN, 5/15/15)


Wildfire photo via InciWeb



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