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Frank, Urtecho graduate from FEMA Academy

Sunny Frank, right, receives his graduation certificate from Kelly Garrett, a FEMA branch chief. (Courtesy photo)

Tribal member Sunny Frank and tribal employee Jonathan Urtecho recently graduated from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Emergency Management Basic Academy (NEMBA).

Frank and Urtecho are Emergency Management coordinators within the tribe’s Public Safety Department, which includes the Seminole Police Department and Seminole Fire Rescue.

Frank said he is the first tribal member to graduate from the NEMBA program, or any other professional program offered by FEMA.

NEMBA is designed for those pursuing a career in emergency management fields. According to FEMA, the program is similar to basic academies operated by the fire service and law enforcement communities and provides a foundational education in emergency management. Trainees are typically newly appointed emergency managers with less than three years of experience on the job.

The pair completed the training at FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The duration was three weeks – one week in January and two weeks in March. There were about 30 people in their class. Frank said he was the sole tribal member in his class and that the Seminole Tribe is only the eighth tribe to be represented at NEMBA.

The courses that Frank and Urtecho completed at NEMBA include foundations of emergency management, the science of disaster, planning: emergency operations, a Department of Homeland Security exercise and evaluation, and public information basics.

“It was eye-opening to work with professional and military people with 20 years of experience and having classes with police chiefs and fire chiefs,” Frank said. “The knowledge that everyone shared gave me a better perspective of how Emergency Management can help the community during disasters or blue sky days.”

Frank, from the Hollywood Reservation, has been in his position since December 2022, but has worked for the tribe for many years. He was previously a juvenile justice supervisor at the tribe’s youth centers before there were Boys and Girls Clubs, and has also worked in an office staff position for the chief of the Seminole Police Department. When he was 18 years old, Frank was a paymaster for the tribe’s former bingo hall in Hollywood.

Urtecho, who has lived in South Florida for most of his life, has been in his position at the tribe since September 2022. Ironically, during his first week on the job, Hurricane Ian – a Category 5 storm that hit Southwest Florida particularly hard – made landfall at Fort Meyers. Previously, Urtecho worked in emergency management for about three and a half years as a contractor and grant manager for the Florida Division of Emergency Management – a combination of administrative and in-the-field experience.

“The tribe has a strong infrastructure and requires a strong Emergency Management agency for the continuity of government,” he said. “At the training, you could see the creativity it takes to assist a community during a disaster, and we offered a tribal perspective for those who have tribes in their areas but never have worked with them.”

Jonathan Urtecho, right, receives his graduation certificate from Kelly Garrett, a FEMA branch chief. (Courtesy photo)
Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at