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Disaster Planning and Relief

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Immigrants' Rights Update, Vol. 22, Issue 8, October 28, 2008

Addressing the Needs of Immigrants and Limited English Communities in Disaster Planning and Relief

Lessons for Government, Disaster Relief Agencies, and Community-Based Organizations

By Jonathan Blazer and Brett Murphy

As the United States experiences an elevation in both the incidence and perceived threat of disaster, emergency preparedness has been assigned high priority by all levels of government, as well as by nongovernmental organizations. Potential hazards range from frequent and severe natural disasters to terrorism and public health epidemics. One of the most basic ingredients of effective planning is the development of strategies for maximizing the participation of the entire populace in preparing for disaster, complying with emergency orders, and engaging in other response efforts when disaster strikes. In the event of a major public health crisis such as a pandemic flu, the country’s success in containing harm and saving lives requires that all members of the community understand how to protect themselves, seek timely help, and avoid spreading disease.

Although there is growing recognition that the effectiveness of disaster planning and relief depends on engaging and addressing the concerns of all segments of the population, the particular concerns of immigrants and other individuals with limited English proficiency are too often overlooked, disregarded, or even at times exploited.

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