Language Barrier Can Become an Issue During an Emergency

Pasadena Star-News, June 30, 2010

Latinos, Asians and other immigrants who speak limited English could be in greater risk in a disaster because many cities lack bilingual emergency personnel and communications systems, a new report released Wednesday said.

“Are We Ready for a Disaster,” prepared by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the Tomas Rivera Center, found that while most Southern California cities provide printed disaster materials in Spanish, few provide those documents in Asian languages.

In addition, many cities don’t have the resources to provide Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) training courses in disaster preparedness for residents in languages other than English.

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While most cities employ bilingual first-responders, not enough of those personnel speak Asian languages in cities with large Asian populations, while cities with large Spanish-speaking residents lack sufficient first-responder who speak that language, the report said.

Most cities use local radio or TV stations to broadcast emergency messages to resident, but a majority broadcast them only in English, the report found, with city official telling researchers they can’t afford to broadcast the

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It said 66 percent of the county’s Asian American population was born outside the Unities States and likely to have limited English skills.

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