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Language Issues and Barriers

  • By: Jonathan P. Purtle, Nadia J. Siddiqui & Dennis P. Andrulis
  • In: Encyclopedia of Disaster Relief
  • Edited by: K. Bradley Penuel & Matt Statler
  • Subject:Public Health (general), Public Policy (general)

Language is the primary vehicle for communicating information that allows individuals to make informed decisions across all phases of a disaster. The effectiveness of educational disaster preparedness materials, emergency response training curricula, emergency warnings, and post-disaster recovery services are all contingent upon information being conveyed in a linguistically appropriate format. For this reason, individuals with limited-English proficiency (LEP) in the United States face a number of barriers to receiving timely, accurate, and useful disaster information, contributing in many cases to disproportionately adverse disaster outcomes. The 1989 Loma Prieta and 1995 Northridge earthquakes, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the 2007 southern California wildfires, and countless other natural and human-made disasters have evidenced perennial language-related issues that pose challenges to LEP communities before, during, and after ...

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