North Carolina, Raleigh– Year after year, thousands of people suffer the severe consequences of the impact of hurricanes in eastern North Carolina. However, natural disasters do not affect everyone the same way.
In conversation with members of the Enlace Latino NC team, dozens of Hispanic families affected by hurricanes Florence and Matthew spoke about how language barriers and the lack of accessible information hampered prevention and recovery efforts.
After listening to the needs of the community, we decided to launch Prepárate NC, a guide with resources for the hurricane season in Spanish.
«Access to accurate and timely information on hurricane planning in our native language is crucial to mitigating risks and recovering more quickly,» said Paola Jaramillo, co-founder and Executive Director of Enlace Latino NC, the first Spanish-language non-profit news organization in North Carolina.
“In the face of a natural disaster, for Latino immigrants who speak Spanish as their first language, having clear information can mean, in many cases, the difference between life and death; especially in rural North Carolina, ”Jaramillo said.
A guide according to the needs of the affected families
According to the United States Census Bureau (2017), 21.6% of the population stated that they spoke “a language other than English at home” and Spanish was reported as the most widely spoken language after English for 40, 5 million people.
More than 1 million Latinos live in North Carolina, making up about 10% of the state’s population.
Speaking with more than 40 Hispanic families and rural and agricultural workers affected by the last hurricanes in the state allowed us to listen to their concerns and create a guide according to their needs.
“As we were told, most counties in eastern North Carolina do not provide emergency alerts in Spanish, and it is difficult to access information in languages other than English. Many people have been prevented from evacuating on time for these reasons. Others did not know how to protect themselves from inclement weather,” said Walter Gómez, co-founder, and CEO of Enlace Latino NC.
Prepárate NC: purpose
In this context, the Prepárate NC’s purpose is to provide practical and educational tools in Spanish to help mitigate the great risks that Latino families face from the impact of hurricanes.
To guarantee the quality of the information, we rely on sources of information like official documents from federal and state entities, interview local authorities and community leaders with experience in assisting during natural disasters.
We understand natural disasters as complex phenomena that must be addressed before, during, and after they happen. For this reason, the tools that the guide provides are useful not only during the moment the hurricane is happening but also for prior risk mitigation and subsequent recovery.
Regarding the period leading up to the impact of the hurricane, Prepárate NC offers practical recommendations on what to do to reduce damage to the home, what are the most convenient evacuation routes, how to save important documentation, where the shelters are located, and how to purchase insurance that will save thousands of dollars on repairs.
Relating to the moment of the hurricane’s impact, some of the articles included in the guide how to get to the shelters, what is the safest way to act in case of a power outage, or what to do if the streets are flooded.
For the post-storm stage, Prepárate NC has information on returning home safely, repairing the home, collecting flood insurance, accessing temporary housing, or seeking assistance from both the state and non-governmental organizations.
«We know that the disproportionate impact of natural disasters on the Latino community is a structural problem,» said Nicolás Baintrub, the reporter who authored Prepárate NC.
“Language barriers, economic inequality, mistrust in the authorities, and transportation difficulties are some of the factors that affect our people and that must be addressed comprehensively. For this reason, Prepárate NC does not intend to solve all historical inequalities but simply to function as a tool to minimize risks and facilitate recovery,” he said.
The recovery process and learning how to navigate the system is not easy for anyone, but even less so for members of the Latino community. Prepárate NC is a guide, a roadmap, a toolkit – our humble contribution to help Hispanic families navigate the storm.
About Enlace Latino NC
Enlace Latino NC publishes daily news on politics, immigration, and community issues on its website at http://enlacelatinonc.org, the “La Tortilla” weekly newsletter, a monthly podcast, live coverage through Facebook at @enlacelatinonc, and alerts and news distributed through social media platforms.
Enlace Latino NC is based in Raleigh, NC. It covers news from across the state and the area that includes Wake, Durham and Orange counties.