Place yourself somewhere random in Santa Barbara, or anywhere in California or in the Southwestern United States. You are more than likely to be in or very near a community that predominantly speaks a language other than English, not exclusive to Spanish, but also Hmong, Oaxacan, Farsi, Hindi, Mandarin, or a multitude of other languages.
Government agencies have a hard task delivering information to a diverse community. Some may argue that since there are many other languages that are spoken and English is the unifier, that should be the common ground. However, especially when trying to deliver critical, life-or-death emergency information, it is crucial to reach out to all segments of the population. In Santa Barbara County, this means including one or more languages besides English, and this is a current gap that should be further prioritized and addressed.
The Santa Barbara Civil Grand Jury Reports in May 2006 and April 2009, as well as emergency wildfire incidents in the last few years, have made it clear that communication in emergency situations was, and continues to be, an area that needs considerable attention. Given a multifaceted disconnect in delivering information to the general English-speaking public, how is it possible that these agencies are ensuring that information will get to the many residents who speak little or no English at all?
Living in as culturally vibrant a community as we do, I encourage government agencies to continue to address these gaps with regard to public education and awareness for emergency and disaster readiness. — Javier Moreno, Aware and Prepare Coordinator