DEMA tribal liaison connects Arizona tribes with emergency management resources

DEMA tribal liaison connects Arizona tribes with emergency management resources

Arizona, Navajo Nation, and U.S. Flags at Window Rock, AZ

Arizona is a culturally diverse state and home for 22 federally recognized tribal communities, including parts of the Navajo Nation, the largest Tribal Nation in the United States. The Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA) looks for opportunities to connect and create partnerships with the tribal emergency managers of these communities by providing quality military and emergency management capabilities for disaster relief operations.

To limit the devastating impact disasters have on tribal cultures, lands, persons, and property, DEMA collaborates with Arizona tribes to plan and prepare for emergencies. These relationships are largely cultivated by DEMA’s tribal liaison, Joseph Urrea. The tribal liaison is responsible for sharing, communicating with, and informing tribal emergency managers about emergency management resources and trainings. Reflecting on his experiences as liaison, Urrea shares, “When I became the tribal liaison I wanted to develop strong relationships with the tribal emergency managers. They welcomed me and gave me the opportunity to see their lands, and speak and work with their departments, programs, and enterprises.”

In early October, Maj. Gen. Michael T. McGuire, The Adjutant General of the Arizona National Guard and DEMA’s director was invited to attend the Navajo Nation State of the Nation Address. During this meeting, Maj. Gen. McGuire reaffirmed DEMA’s commitment to provide National Guard and Emergency Management support during a natural disaster. Maj. Gen. McGuire expressed DEMA’s support role to the Nation, “The local response is the lead and we’re going to be in support of whatever requirements exist at the Navajo Nation. When state resources are needed, we stand ready to deliver.” This support offered to the Navajo Nation demonstrates DEMA’s assistance to Arizona tribes.

DEMA’s mission focuses on supporting its tribal partners with the skills and knowledge to prepare plans and resources prior to floods, fires, snow storms or other disasters. The unique role of the tribal liaison is to match the services from the Arizona Army and Air National Guard, the Joint Task Force and Emergency Management to the needs of the tribes. In particular, the tribal liaison works with Emergency Management to prepare tribal emergency managers in the areas of preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation.


Preparedness is an essential part of supporting tribes in emergency readiness. DEMA’s Exercise Branch can assist tribal emergency managers to design, develop, conduct, and evaluate exercises that follow the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program guidance. These guiding principles for exercise programs coupled with the Branch’s expertise in exercise program management allow tribal emergency managers to work with experts who can help tribes identify their strengths and needs, as well as gain insight into corrective action needed before an actual emergency occurs.


The Response Branch provides threat and hazard analysis, 24/7 response support through the Certified Response Team, and field intelligence during a disaster. Through analyzing intelligence and coordinating response activities in the State Emergency Operations Center, the Response Branch can assist tribes by identifying information that can give insight into a potential risk, threat or disaster prior to an emergency.


DEMA’s Recovery Branch provides technical assistance and helps coordinate state and federal resources to assist impacted communities in recovering from emergencies. The Recovery Branch educates and trains tribes in infrastructure recovery and resource coordination with voluntary organizations and private sector companies.


Part of the foundation of emergency management is having comprehensive plans. The Planning Branch can assist tribes through hazard mitigation planning to ensure a long-term plan is in place to protect their communities, including their people, sacred land, and existing and future business developments.

DEMA’s commitment to providing comprehensive support is rooted in a firm belief of serving the Whole Community. Through its relationship with Arizona’s tribal communities, DEMA understands how to provide emergency management and military resources to tribal nations that upholds respect for tribal culture, values, and overall connectedness to the natural environment.