Limited English Proficient Communities Lack Disaster Preparedness

Washington, DC: The Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) has applauded the recent release of Disaster Preparedness in Urban Communities: Lessons Learned from the Recent Catastrophes Relevant to Asian and Latino Communities in Southern California, a joint collaboration by AAJC’s affiliate, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), and the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI).
“While focused on California, the report provides important insights to policymakers and agencies charged with preparing and implementing emergency response plans throughout the nation,” said Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive director of AAJC.
The APALC/TRPI study provides findings and recommendations to improve disaster preparedness in Asian American and Latino communities and to help emergency response personnel better serve these growing communities. An important finding is that immigrant and limited English proficient populations are not fully incorporated in disaster preparedness educational efforts and emergency response plans. AAJC’s case study, Hurricane Katrina: Models for Effective Emergency Response in Asian American Communities, which can be found at, was also used in the production of the report.
Key findings of the report include:
• A lack of disaster preparedness materials in languages other than English that reflect the demographics of the service populations.
• A shortage of bilingual staff and volunteers among emergency response crews and nonprofits that typically do outreach during emergencies.
• Ethnic media outlets are underutilized as important tools for communication with immigrant and limited English-speaking communities.
• Concern that members of the immigrant community will not come forward for assistance for fear that their status will come into question.
The report recommends that federal and state governments establish a baseline of minimal secondary language resources and that local agencies take a lead in creating informational materials and response plans that take into account the language needs of their constituents. Current state legislative efforts to address this issue include AB 1930 (Torrico) which would build upon the existing emergency preparedness system and incorporate the language needs of Californians in disaster preparedness planning, response and recovery.
The project, conducted over a two-year period, involved two focus groups of Latino residents, one of Mandarin-speaking residents and another comprised of Vietnamese-speaking residents.
Researchers also interviewed 34 members of disaster service providers, nonprofit organizations and ethnic organizations in Southern California.
Additional interviews focused on emergency service providers in the quake-affected areas of Northridge, Calif. (1994) and the Hurricane Katrina disaster areas in Louisiana (2005).
The study addresses the need to prepare for similar large-scale emergencies and man-made disasters. The US Geological Survey forecasts that California has a 46 percent chance of an earthquake with at least a 7.5 magnitude in the next 30 years.
For a copy of Disaster Preparedness in Urban Communities: Lessons Learned from the Recent Catastrophes Relevant to Asian and Latino Communities in Southern California, please click here:
Disaster Preparedness in Urban Immigrant Communities: Lessons Learned from Recent Catastrophic Events and Their Relevance to Latino and Asian Communities in Southern California





Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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