San Diego County faces a variety of threats from wildfires and earthquakes to blackouts and infectious diseases. The County has established networks and action plans to address any emergency, however, this valuable information is less likely to reach the over 400,000 non-English speaking individuals that live in the region.
In order to improve communication with communities that speak languages other than English, the Office of Emergency Services (OES) and Public Health Services (PHS) partnered in an effort to establish relationships with community leaders to understand the best method to communicate emergency information. Through ongoing discussions and meetings with leaders representing eight language groups (Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Vietnamese, Somali, and Karen), they determined that the best method of communication was to use existing networks and phone trees/partner relays to disseminate emergency information. Over 300 individuals representing non-profit organizations, houses of worship, and refugee resettlement agencies have agreed to partner with the County in disseminating information to their communities during emergencies. The OES provides access to an online communication platform where information is shared with trusted partners and they in turn, share the information with their community in various languages.
In order to maintain consistent communication and build trusting relationships with community leaders, OES and PHS began offering Public Health and Emergency Preparedness Workshops in 2015. Since January 2016, OES and PHS have held five workshops for agencies serving immigrant, refugee and newly arrived communities. The most recent workshop took place on August 15 at the Price-Charity building in City Heights with 65 people in attendance. The workshop included a welcome from Jackie Kersey Hardrick, PH Manager for Central Region, a Wildfire Prevention presentation by Kim McDermott from OES, Active and Emerging Mosquito-borne diseases, with a focus on Zika by CDC’s Dr. Jessica M. Healy, Mosquitoes in San Diego County by Emily Ferrill from the County’s Vector Control Program, and a walkthrough demonstration of the County’s online communication platform Partner Relay by Justine Kozo, Chief, Office of Border Health. As with all the trainings this year, the feedback has been positive and constructive with many suggestions on what organizations would like to see in future workshops.
"I want to attend the future trainings because I want to share with my community," said a workshop attendee at the August 15 training.
As a result of the success and positive feedback of the workshops, Dr. Wilma Wooten, Director of PHS, and Holly Crawford, Director of OES, have pledged to offer three Public Health and Emergency Preparedness Workshops per year in order to continue constant emergency preparedness communication with the community.
Partnering with community leaders is a rewarding and educational experience. This effort would not be possible without the collaborative support of the community based agencies and several County groups. For more information on future trainings or how to participate in this effort, please contact Justine Kozo at Justine.Kozo@sdcounty.ca.gov or Kim McDermott at Kim.McDermott@sdcounty.ca.gov.