Wildfire Toolkit: Response & Recovery

Emergency management systems have historically been built and structured without the needs of Latino communities taken into consideration. Due to this lack of consideration, Latinos are more likely to experience delayed alerts, slow access to information and emergency response services, in addition to inadequate or insufficient disaster relief and recovery resources. In order to truly build equitable emergency management systems, agencies, organizations, and decision makers must proactively collaborate at all levels - local, federal, and state - and plan with their Latino constituents to build response and recovery systems that serve all members of society.

  • From disaster damage assessments to final permits on rebuilt homes, the chain of data collections, analyses, and decisions is always complicated, often inconsistently regulated, and likely to leave gaps through which the neediest and most underserved disaster victims can slip.
  • One study of Hispanic renters found that 66% do not have renters insurance, 5% do not know, and 29% are insured.
  • While 79% of Latino adults in the U.S. believe preparedness is a very important issue, only 39% of Latino households have taken any steps to prepare for an emergency.
  • A 2007 study found that of 301 organizational websites on emergency preparedness - including government, private, nonprofit, community, and academic - the vast majority of organizations involved in emergency response preparedness had not integrated the needs of racially and ethnically diverse communities. Of these organizations, 49% made no mention of these diverse communities, 38% made some mention primarily in the context of translated materials, and 13% did focus on these diverse communities.

A Duke University study identified significant barriers and challenges in immigrant communities in the face of emergency preparedness and disaster relief:

  • Lack of inclusion of all community members in disaster planning
  • Linguistic barriers in disaster preparedness and response
  • Lack of readily available translated/understandable preparedness materials
  • Lack of easily accessible translated emergency alerts
  • Lack of translated signage and culturally sensitive bilingual/multilingual service providers Lack of cultural competence by service providers
  • Failure to inform immigrants of their right to disaster aid Failure to address fears of deportation/public charge and distrust of government
  • Discrimination and racial profiling leading to exclusion of individuals from shelters/aid and inquiries about immigration status
  • Unique barriers facing immigrants
  • Lack of transportation assistance (especially for migrant workers) Unclear process for responding to loss of documents (by USCIS)
  • Failure to acknowledge structural inequities and different social structures in diverse, rural communities
  • Lack of coordination between different government agencies and tiers in disaster response

Research & Resources for Solutions

As the Latino population continues to grow in both urban and rural communities, decision makers must address how traditional emergency management systems have not equitably served marginalized and vulnerable communities in order to make a proactive shift to ensure all members of society are prepared for wildfires and have equitable access to resources and services to respond to and recover after these disasters.

Media & Communications

Providing alerts, updates and communicating with the public is critical for successful emergency management systems. Ensuring these communications are accessible to all members of a community, including individuals with limited English proficiency, is not only good practice, but it is also the law under Title VI of the Civil Right Act of 1964. Historically, however, emergency management systems have overlooked Latino communities that speak Spanish and indigenous languages. An overlooked strategy to quickly and efficiently engage Latino communities before, during, and after a wildfire is through Spanish language media outlets and other media platforms commonly used by Latinos. It is critical that decision makers proactively survey and engage Latino populations in their communities to ensure that emergency response communications strategies accurately reflect the unique needs of Latinos and other diverse communities in their jurisdiction.

  • 95% of Hispanic consumers tune into the radio in an average week.
  • In 2010, the number of US Latino households with TV sets increased by 3.1%, which was three times more than all households in the U.S. general market, and television advertising grew 10%, doubling the bounce that network TV overall received.
  • More than 90% of Hispanics under 50 use the Internet, compared to 67% for those 50 to 64 and 42% for those 65 and over. 94% of U.S. Latinos who speak primarily English use the Internet, compared to 86% of those who are bilingual and 74% of those who speak primarily Spanish.
  • In a 2018 survey of Spanish-speaking participants about their experiences during the wildfires in northern California, over 60% of respondents turned to TV outlets, over 40% to Facebook, over 40% to Nixle, over 30% to radio outlets, over 20% to websites, and less than 10% to newspapers for information when the fires first broke out.

Research & Resources for Solutions

Proactively engaging Latinos in emergency management planning and communication systems will ensure critical emergency response and recovery information reaches all members of a community. Latino communities are diverse and the manner in which families and communities share information and communicate can vary depending on their primary language, national origin, socioeconomic status and access to technology, and preferred media platforms. It is essential for decision makers, agencies and emergency response managers to understand the unique communication patterns among Latinos in their communities to adequately and efficiently communicate with all members of society.

About Us

Hispanic Access Foundation connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society.

Contact Us