While the Southwestern landscape is majestic, it, like all regions, is subject to bouts of dangerous weather. KUYI, a small radio station based on the Hopi reservation in northeast Arizona, has provided critical information to its community during a year that has been especially trying.
From blizzards to flooding to tornadoes, KUYI’s capacity has been challenged, yet staff and volunteers have risen to the occasion, say general manager Monica Nuvamsa and station manager Richard Davis. “We’ve been put to the test three times, and each time we’ve done a little bit better,” notes Davis.
The year’s first test came when a severe winter storm in January blanketed much of northern Arizona with three to six feet of snow. The Hopi reservation lost power for 48 hours, and larger stations in Flagstaff – 120 miles away – were knocked off the air. Thanks to two diesel generators acquired through a Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP) grant, KUYI remained on-air. Up to 100,000 potential listeners over four counties received vital information on emergency relief efforts, weather and road conditions.
In July, severe flooding destroyed the sewer and potable water infrastructure in the area known as the First Mesa Consolidated Villages. It took three days for trucks with drinkable water to arrive, and several more days for Porta-Potties to be delivered. As the situation evolved, KUYI kept listeners informed both over the air and through the station’s Facebook page.
“People see KUYI as a serious news source for emergency response,” says Nuvamsa. In times of crisis, KUYI collaborates with other tribal, state and federal entities to communicate with the public. The station makes sure information is current and accurate before releasing it to avoid causing unnecessary panic.
Davis, the station’s lead in developing a safety plan, praises the SAFER Stations project, a joint undertaking of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, NPR and CPB. SAFER’s best practices manual “covers everything, from taking a deep breath and surveying the damage, to making sure the station is safe and distributing information in a calm way,” says Davis. “It’s a beautiful wealth of information for stations to coordinate their responses in a disaster or, if they’re alone, to have self-sufficiency in a time of crisis.”