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Non-English speaking population is a focus for emergency communications heading into high fire season

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is increasing its messaging and commitment to information for the non-English speaking population, specifically those who speak Spanish.

The department has in recent years identified this area as a priority focus.

OEM Director Kelly Hubbard says some messages are prepared in the system now and will be adjusted per event. In a quick time frame, they can be sent out to the public at large or to specific areas.

The goal is to enhance and expand community resilience.

The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) has been working with emergency services and Listos California to help ensure communities across the state are prepared for, can respond to, and recover from disasters.

This includes messaging and grants after a disaster as part of recovery.

Hubbard says, some significant improvements have been made. "We've done a lot of pre translated messages. Those are pre loaded into the system. In emergency management it is a priority to make sure we are translating our emergency protective  measure into all the common languages in our communities."

Santa Barbara City Fire Public Education Specialist Liliana Encinas says the COVID crisis showed some gaps in the messaging system. "If the pandemic taught us anything, it was the lack of access to information."

Before a crisis, Encinas says the public should understand emergency information and have a personal plan. "That way when the incident comes they are familiarized with all of these terms and where to search for all of this information."

She says that includes evacuation warnings and red flag alerts. "The more educated our community is, the easier it will be to act in a disaster happens.

Listos information is now available 13  languages. "So you can take what ever languages you like that to speak at home," said Encinas. "You're knowledgeable. You're aware of what the different terminology  means and the actions you need to take."

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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