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Emergency Response, The Call For Governments To Communicate In Spanish

December 20th, 2013 · 16 Comments · Media, News and Events

Must state government and communities with large Hispanic populations do more to communicate with Spanish-speaking residents, especially during emergency responses? CT Latino News raises the question in an article about emergency practices. The article suggests not enough is being done.

When Mayor Bill Finch appears on Bridgeport-based Radio Cumbre he brings along a translator such as Town Clerk Alma Maya. Pablo Colón III, the station’s vice president, argues efforts on a state level must be comprehensive beyond emergencies. From the article:

Several representatives of Spanish-language media outlets related their experiences on getting information from the state in times of crisis, as well as what they say is the lack of paid advertising on public safety issues during a fact-finding hearing held Wednesday by the state’s Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

When Sandy was approaching, Bridgeport’s Radio Cumbre (WCUM) took a proactive approach, interviewing the mayor and other city officials to find out what their local plans were for dealing with the storm and what residents should do to prepare themselves, reported Pablo Colón III, the station’s vice president of sales and marketing. “I think there’s a level of decentralization of all the departments within the state,” he said, with each having its own ways of getting information out, “and maybe not all of them know we exist.”

“It’s a much larger issue than just information around emergencies. You have to look at budgeting for marketing and communication,” Colón said. When the state undertakes an informational program intended to help everybody, such as about not drinking and driving, “when the laws are being written, I think it’s really important that the marketing (dollars) are split. “Bridgeport, for example, is nearly 40% percent Latino. It’s not (just) ‘let’s get a person to do press releases,’” Colón said. All state communication efforts–whether press releases or paid advertising–should include the Spanish-language media. “A lot of the stuff we do in emergencies we do out of duty, we do for love,” not because it helps pay the bills, he said.

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16 Comments so far ↓

  • Hector A. Diaz

    POR MUCHO TIEMPO LOS HISPANOS QUE NO ENTIENDEN INGLÉS, SE HAN VISTO SIN REMEDIO, EN EMERGENCIAS. ME IMAGINO COMO SERÍA SI EL ZAPATO ESTUVIERA EN EL OTRO PIE … DIME USTED.

    • Bob

      Markene (sp) dos por español. O estudio ingles en escuela.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      Hector, no tienes que gritarlo.

    • Local Eyes

      Translation: Hope and pray Hector A. Diaz doesn’t come to your rescue next time you’re in trouble. It’s times like this that I remind him and Pablo Colón about the huge dollars spent on ESL classes and other gov’t agencies that provide Spanish interpretations in news documents and press releases. Some want perfection. Spanish winners in America know it’s easier, better and more fun to live Spanish when they can speak English, too.

  • Ron Mackey

    What is Bridgeport doing? Mayor Finch going on “one” Spanish-language media, Bridgeport’s Radio Cumbre (WCUM), is not the answer, it’s a start. How are emergency fire and medical phone calls handled, are they delay and transfer, how much time is lost? What happens when police and fire arrive on the scene of an emergency and those needing help speak Spanish, well what is the “CITY’S POLICY” in helping those in need?

  • Joel Gonzalez

    On the other hand, what’s the excuse of all the Hispanic Elected Officials who do have the resources and the ability to communicate in Spanish? They do speak English too which raises the question of why is the media raising the issue and asking the question. As long as Hispanics keep electing people (Hispanics in particular) who don’t give a damn and have demonstrated that year after year, expect more of the same. Don’t wait for Speedy Gonzalez to come to the rescue. Yijaaa, andale, andale, andale …

  • Mojo

    *** The help thy neighbor concept is wonderful but during tight economic times where city or state government look to cut important areas in education, social resources, medical care, etc. to meet budget limits; can big brother be a foreign language translator for all the ethic nationalities in America where English is the main language of the land? My grandparents and parents had no bilingual help when they came to America, nor did I in public schools! The concept of translating emergency or important info to folk in their native language is great but what nationality and in how many languages should this info be translated and at what cost? Does this “enable” non-speaking English people to take a back-seat approach towards actually learning English? When I visited the middle east and Europe, the native residents encouraged me to learn their language, not the other way around. *** When in Rome, do as the Romans do, no? ***

  • BOE SPY

    We have no national language. This means citizens must be helped in the language they prefer, regardless of what language that is. This can quickly become expensive. This means every government form, street sign and public schooling would need to be offered in the language of the consumer. From time to time a vote comes up to make English our national language but it fails. If we did have a national language private individuals and businesses could do whatever they want in whatever language they want but the government would only be required to use the national language. This does not mean government services would not be in other languages. It just would not be required.
    Imagine somebody who decided to speak Klingon, or any language spoken by less than 1% of the world, and demanded all government services be supplied in that language.

    • Ron Mackey

      BOE SPY, let someone get killed because there was no one to understand what they were saying when they asked for life-saving help, this has happened right here in Bridgeport and the City had to pay.

      I tell you what, if you are an elected official you will want their votes and if you are a business person you want them to spent their money with your business, thereby you will make sure you have signs in their language.

      • Joel Gonzalez

        Ron, I understand the point you make and the overall point and concern raised. But read the article and tell me if you don’t get the sense what Colón is really looking for is to get paid for the station’s public service announcement during an emergency. The City of Bridgeport offered a five-day training session for people who wanted to participate during weather emergency and disasters. I wanted to go but the training was held during the hours I work. After the training, one would be certified to join the forces of emergency assistance and evacuation personnel. I bet not many people took the training and I bet few if any speak Spanish. That is not the Mayor or Government’s fault. If Colón (Radio Cumbre) was so concerned about drunk driving or anything like that, I’m sure he can cut out any old song and have free public service announcements. I’d like to see OIB en español. How do I get that squiggly line over the letter n?

        [ed: It’s called a tilde, and it’s easy, Joel. I put them in when I see they’re missing. The accents, too. Hold down <alt> and type 0241 on the keypad, then release <alt> and an ñ magically appears.]

      • BOE SPY

        You are right, Ron. That is what I said. Private people and businesses could do what they wanted. I am sure in areas with a large, non-English-speaking population, services would be offered in both languages. It just wouldn’t be required.
        As far as calling for help goes, if you dial 911 and say nothing or hang up a cop is supposed to always show up. People still get lifesaving help when they can’t speak at all or are unconscious.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    160 á, 130 é, 161 í, 162 ó, 163 ú, 164 ñ, 165 Ñ.

    Ray, try these numbers and you’ll see they work. I guess these are the numbers used in Spanish-speaking countries. The day they notice this, they will demand gringos like you use these numbers. Now I’m trying to figure out what numbers I use to put the ‘acento’ on capital letters or vocales mayúsculos. I don’t get to write in Spanish as often so I forget.

    {ed: Joel, here are the rest of them for you: Á 0193, É 0201, Í 0205, Ó 0211, Ú 0218, Ñ 0209, Ü 0220.}

  • Mojo

    *** HOW ABOUT TRYING HARDER TO LEARN ENGLISH WHILE LIVING AND WORKING IN AMERICA! *** WHILE IN FRANCE FOR A BRIEF STAY, A FELLOW COMRADE WAS UPSET WHILE TRYING TO ORDER FROM THE FOOD MENU AND ASKED “WHY” IT WAS NOT IN ENGLISH TOO. THE RESPONSE WAS BECAUSE THIS IS FRANCE NOT ENGLAND OR AMERICA, AND THE LANGUAGE OF THE LAND IS FRENCH. ***

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