FEMA Officials Visit Cherokee Nation

FEMA Cherokee Nation visit
L-R: Secretary of State Tina Glory-Jordan; Delegate to Congress Kim Teehee; Cherokee Nation Senior Advisor for Community Engagement Canaan Duncan; District 1 Councilor Rex Jordan; Deputy Chief Bryan Warner; Senior Director of Public Safety Philip Manes; FEMA National Tribal Affairs Advocate Kelbie Kennedy; Emergency Management Operations Manager Timothy Taylor; Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.; Region 6 Director of Grants Mark D. Price; District 6 FEMA External Affairs Deputy Director Juan Ayala; District 6 FEMA Tribal Liaison Dempsey Kraft; and Public Safety Emergency Management Director Amy Tanner.

HULBERT, OK – Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) leaders visited the Cherokee Nation to tour a community storm shelter being built by the tribe in Hulbert.

The Cherokee Nation’s new community storm safe shelter is one of seven on the reservation funded by a FEMA grant to help protect Cherokee communities during the event of severe storms and weather. In Hulbert, nine tornados have touched down since 2015.

“The Cherokee Nation believes in the safety and protection of our families and communities, and are extremely thankful we could partner with FEMA and our emergency management team to provide resources during natural disasters,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “We will continue to serve our citizens’ needs to ensure their safety and well-being is met and are committed to reducing the risk and loss of life and property by lessening the impacts of future disasters.” 

The Hulbert community storm shelter construction began in January and will be completed by July. It will be 1,280 sq. ft. and accommodate up to 256 people while withstanding winds greater than 200 mph. It will connect to the current Hulbert Community Center at 405 S. Rogers Ave.

Upcoming community shelters will be built at the Durbin Feeling Language Center in Tahlequah and the Tsa-La-Gi apartments in Sallisaw. Four other community storm shelters have already been built at the Cherokee Nation Emergency Medical Services building and in the communities of Tailholt, Greasy and Chewey.

“If we can protect our citizens and communities, the impact of our response and recovery after a disaster is stronger, faster and longer lasting,” said Cherokee Nation Senior Director of Public Safety Philip Manes. “Oklahoma is known for its wild and unpredictably strong weather patterns, specifically tornadoes. Tornado and storm shelters are an essential piece of the life safety matrix, they are at times a way of life for many citizens. Cherokee Nation Emergency Management appreciates the support of FEMA grants and the ability to provide a ‘safe haven’ in these shelters to give a piece of mind and protect our citizens and communities before a disaster occurs.”

Also, Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner announced a new $2.4 million program that will provide 300 elders or those with disabilities with above-ground storm shelters. The ᎦᎵᏦᏗ (Shelter) program will be funded from the tribe’s American Rescue Plan Act dollars.

The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation is currently taking applications for this new program. Once applications are verified and a site inspection is concluded, the first storm shelter installations should begin in June and should complete in 10-12 months. 

“Here on the reservation, we face some of the most unpredictable weather at times,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “Storm shelters are an essential component here on the reservation to keep Cherokee families’ safe. It’s such a blessing that communities like Hulbert and across our reservation, as well as are elders and disabled, are getting a place to take shelter. These shelters will bring comfort to so many of our citizens.” 

The Cherokee Nation had previously installed storm shelters at its Stilwell and Tahlequah Head Starts and Tahlequah Child Development Center with other federal grants. Sequoyah High School also has a community storm shelter in place.