In the event of a natural disaster or public health emergency, such as a wildfire or an infectious disease outbreak, reaching Limited English Proficient communities is critical and can save lives. Over 400,000 San Diegans speak a language other than English at home and report speaking English less than “very well.” A recent report demonstrated that across San Diego County regions, of all individuals who reported speaking English “not well” or “not at all,” almost 1/3 reported that they were not prepared for a disaster.
One of the three components of Live Well San Diego is Living Safely. In order to foster an environment of health and well-being, safety is a critical element. The County of San Diego supports efforts to help communities be prepared, resilient and ready to respond to any type of emergency. The Office of Emergency Services (OES) and Public Health Services (PHS) have partnered over the last few years on a specific effort to improve communication and create partnerships with organizations that serve our monolingual populations. The target languages include Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Vietnamese, Somali and Karen. This effort has included community forums and one-on-one meetings with agencies to share important County tools and request their commitment in helping the County share critical, life-saving information in various languages, during emergencies.
Additional efforts have recently focused on the Latino community. Recently, Public Health Services Office of Border Health, California Department of Public Health-Office of Binational Border Health, Health Initiative of the Americas, and Project Concern International formed a team* to specifically address emergency communication with the San Diego Latino community. According to the most recent estimate (2013), Latinos represent approximately 33% of San Diego County’s entire population and this number is steadily growing. In the recent past, Latinos have encountered significant barriers to receiving timely, lifesaving information during emergencies. By partnering with trusted Latino-serving organizations to improve communication and emergency preparedness, the team’s goal is to empower communities for the benefit of the entire County.
In partnership with OES, the team has organized four quarterly emergency preparedness trainings throughout the County for Latino-serving agencies in San Diego. The first training was held on July 15, 2015, at the County Health Services Complex. Over thirty community leaders attended representing organizations, such as San Ysidro Health Center, the Mexican Consulate, Chula Vista Community Collaborative, Vista Community Clinic, and the YMCA. Topics ranged from an overview of natural disaster threats specific to San Diego, a review of OES communication tools (such as their website, app [currently being translated into Spanish] and the Partner Connection site) and recommendations on how to create a Family Disaster plan.
“For the Mexican Consulate, it is of the utmost importance to disseminate this type of information to our community to get prepared for any contingency that may arise in the future,”said Victor E. Corzo, Head of the Consular Protection and Legal Assistance Department. “For this reason, we celebrate San Diego County’s efforts to create resilient communities.”
Each quarterly training is unique and will cover different material. Community leaders and organizations that serve the local Latino population are encouraged to attend all trainings. Future trainings will include presentations by the County Emergency Medical Services, the Red Cross, and Vista Community Clinic (a leader in emergency communication with mono-lingual Spanish speakers). The hope is that participants will take the information presented and share it with their co-workers, community partners, and the populations which they serve. All trainings will be held in English only.
"La base del éxito comunitario, empieza por la unidad (The foundation of community success begins with unity)," said Eva Navarrete, Health Educator, The Dreamcatcher Circle.
Please help us spread the word! Any agency that is currently serving the Latino community is welcome to attend and can register by clicking on the link located here.
*The team is participating in the Public Health Institute National Leadership Academy for the Public’s Health and the trainings are part of their year-long leadership project.