The interpreter and translator’s goal is to deliver messages to listeners in a comprehensive form. This gives listeners an opportunity to make informed decisions based on the information provided. In the wake of many natural disasters this year, particularly in the United States and its territories, it is essential to understand that emergency preparedness needs to be multilingual.
It is critical to ensure that all residents, in an area threatened by a natural disaster, are informed of all available resources. In “Filling the Gaps: Inequitable Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Policies Serving Immigrant and Refugee Communities,” writer Emily Nagler mentions how in times of natural disasters non-English speaking communities in Washington State tend to be overlooked. Nagler discusses a wildfire in July of 2014 at King Blossom Natural Orchard where about 50 employees lost their homes. They escaped right before the fires destroyed their homes because they were woken up by the son of their employer. During the wildfire, employees at other farms had no transportation and some continued to work while the fire blazed in the distance (1). Nagler reported that “many of the immigrants in Washington come from Mexico, Guatemala, and other areas of Latin America” (1). The only Spanish speaking radio station in the area where the wildfires reached never received information about the wildfire and could not inform listeners. Understanding that with the increase of non-English speakers or people with “Limited English Proficiency (LEP)” (2) in the United States, along with seemingly more natural disasters, it is imperative for communities to include multilingual services for emergency preparedness.
In “Harvey Reinforces The Need for Language Assistance During Disasters” writer Jake Schild emphasizes the need for communication with “non-native speakers” and introduces “an emergency preparedness checklist for non-native speakers in the event of a disaster (2).” This summer Hurricane Harvey hit Texas wherein one of its cities, Houston; there is an estimate of 150 different languages spoken including Spanish, Tamil, German, French, and Hindi (2). The many different languages spoken in one city shows the great need for a strategic plan for emergency preparedness.
The Emergency Preparedness Checklist recommends 24/7 multilingual phone support to provide much-needed disaster information to LEP people. Another valuable service is to have health warning flyers, preparedness guides, and evacuation routes with multilingual translations given to every community member. Field interpreters are to be available to answer questions and calm LEP people. The interpreters will assist in managing shelter and food information centers (2). Also, a community must have “family plan templates” (2). “Family plan templates” contains meeting locations and emergency contact lists in hardcopy and digital form. Finally, the community must provide multilingual “preparedness training” (2) which offers an opportunity for LEP individuals to meet with those who
serve the community in times of disaster such as law enforcement (2).
Communication is critical when it comes to ensuring a community’s safety. People must take urgent actions to notify their neighbors about incoming disaster and safety procedures. Multilingual services are one of the significant components of communication that will protect everyone.
Written By: Kou T. Nyan
1. Nagler, Emily (2017) “Filling the Gaps: Inequitable Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Policies Serving Immigrant and Refugee Communities,” The International Undergraduate Journal For
Service-Learning, Leadership, and Social Change: Vol. 6: Iss. 2, p. 10-22. Available at: http://opus.govst.edu/iujsl/vol6/iss2/4
2. Schild, Jake (2017) “Harvey Reinforce the Need for Language Assistance During Disaster,” ULG Daily.