If you or a loved one has a speech disability or does not speak, read, or understand English, consider the following tips when developing an emergency plan to increase your personal preparedness.
1. Plan for Yourself & Your Surroundings
- Customized emergency kits with items specific to your needs: portable assistive communication devices, spare chargers or batteries, and headphones.
- Language barriers between first responders and people in immediate need can result in feelings of anxiety, fear, frustration, untreated pain, and overall loss of control. A picture communication board can be a useful tool to assess a person’s needs until a qualified interpreter can be reached.
- Include written information about your devices to present to first responders. For example: “I need my (name of device). It will enable me to respond to your questions and communicate my needs.”
- Keep a list of key phrases on index cards for emergency personnel (e.g. “I do speak English, I need a _____ language interpreter” or “I am unable to communicate verbally, I use an assistive communication device.”)
- Build a network of neighbors, relatives, friends and coworkers to aid you in an emergency. Discuss your communication needs and make sure everyone knows how to operate your equipment.
- In emergency situations where parents/grandparents are non-English speakers, responders may rely on children to convey time-sensitive information. Discuss your emergency preparedness plans with every member of your family.
2. Plan for Your Environment & Community
- Some non-English speaking population groups may not understand the role or presence of law enforcement officers in an emergency situation. Work with community leaders to engage in preparedness, response, and recovery education and training opportunities.
- Radio and TV stations are an effective way to deliver important emergency information to the public. Contact local stations that broadcast in your native language to inquire if they are setup to receive emergency messages from local Emergency Management service providers in your area.
- Be familiar with emergency plans and procedures that exist in places you spend time such as your workplace, school or daycare center. Identify how the information will be communicated to you in an emergency.
- Identify where you will meet family, friends, or caregivers after an emergency. Pick two places to meet: one right near your home and another outside your neighborhood (e.g. library, community center, or place of worship).
- Contact your local Emergency Management office to explore the creation of a voluntary registry of people with disabilities or access and functional needs located within their jurisdiction.
FEMA in Your Language
Limited English Proficiency
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