The 911 network is designed to connect people in need with first responders and coordinate the dispatch of emergency teams during disasters. It’s a service upon which people’s very lives depend. But in Pottawatomie County, that service was struggling.

What we noticed, in that really bad tornado, was that the first responders — the volunteer fire departments, the ambulance service, the sheriff’s deputies and the municipal police — everyone was on a different bandwidth and there was no communication between all of these agencies responding.
John “Rocky” Barrett
Chairman, Citizen Potawatomi Nation
Pottawatomie County’s Water Supplier
For more than a dozen years, the tribe has operated a water district that serves residents, schools, churches, volunteer fire departments and other businesses.
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As a powerful EF5 tornado tore through Oklahoma in 2013, “the existing communication system failed,” recalls Tim Zientek, emergency manager for Citizen Potawatomi Nation. “Because we have redundant systems put in place, we were about the only jurisdiction in the area that could still communicate with our dispatch center. So that was a very difficult time.”

That disaster prompted the tribe to take action. They took responsibility for the 911 network and did so at no charge to the county. At the time, every agency using the network had been paying a fee, but Citizen Potawatomi Nation waived those fees and provided the service for free.

The real winners were the residents of Pottawatomie County. “The response time is faster and the different departments have better communication and the ability to share equipment and people,” says Citizen Potawatomi Nation Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett. “So it’s worked out as a cooperative effort.”

Over the years, the tribe has invested heavily in the dispatch system. Today, more than two dozen first responder agencies — as well as some 40,000 county residents — rely on this vital, life-saving service.

It just makes sense to do that to protect all of our citizens in the community, whether they’re native or non-native. The nation understands the concept of family and family is community. You can’t protect all the time. But you do the best you can to protect those and help those that need help.
Tim Zientek
Director, Emergency Management, Citizen Potawatomi Nation

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