A member of the Community Emergency Response Team assists an injured woman
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Los Angeles County Overcomes Language Barriers to Help Diverse Communities Prepare

November 2015

America's PrepareAthon! Children's Day April 30th, 2015Outreach to Non-English Speakers Ensures Community-wide Participation in America’s PrepareAthon!SM Children’s Day

The University of Southern California completed a study that showed first responders and emergency managers in the area provide preparedness information mostly in English. The researchers concluded that public information officers should provide more resources to serve community members who don’t speak the language.

Ken Kondo, a public information officer and emergency manager at the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management (OEM), helped plan America’s PrepareAthon!SM Children’s Day and events with community partners on April 30, 2015. Participants of these events joined the millions of others who took part in registered activities in collaboration with America’s PrepareAthon!

Kondo aimed to reach out to non-English-speaking communities, especially Latinos, in unincorporated areas of the county. According to the Los Angeles Department of Regional Planning, there are 88 incorporated cities within Los Angeles County, each with its own city council. The remaining 65 percent of Los Angeles County is unincorporated, meaning its Board of Supervisors and County Departments provide municipal services. These unincorporated areas represent two-thirds of the County's land and one-tenth of its population.

Forging Partnerships across the County

To plan for the PrepareAthon!, Kondo organized and promoted this countywide event that reached more than 10 million residents, 88 independent cities, more than 100 communities in unincorporated areas, 100 school districts, and more than 200 special districts.

To accomplish this, Kondo formed partnerships with public and private organizations across the county to conduct 12 events co-branded with America’s PrepareAthon! “When a disaster happens,” said Kondo, “we are all in this together.”

Community partners gathered at Plaza Mexico in Lynwood for America’s PrepareAthon! Children’s Day in Los Angeles County on April 30, 2015.Community partners gathered at Plaza Mexico in Lynwood for America’s PrepareAthon! Children’s Day in Los Angeles County on April 30, 2015.

Linking Events to Increase Youth Participation

On April 30, 2015, Los Angeles County’s OEM conducted a series of events for National PrepareAthon! Day. The date coincided with Latino Children’s Day, and Los Angeles County’s OEM partnered with churches and the Lynwood and Los Angeles Unified School Districts to encourage greater youth participation.

During the PrepareAthon!, Los Angeles County’s Fire Department led CPR trainings and brought their Yogi Bear-themed “Shakey-Quakey” School House earthquake simulator for kids. “The participants were instructed on what to do during an actual earthquake, which is drop, cover, and hold on,” said Kondo.

Making Preparedness Fun

The children participated in programs led by the American Red Cross, including a Disney-themed Pillowcase Project, which teaches children in grades 3–5 about personal and family preparedness, local hazards, and basic coping skills for dealing with disasters. “Using Disney characters got kids interested and kept their attention, which helped them learn about disaster preparedness,” said Kondo.

South Gate Target representatives and their mascot Bullseye attended the PrepareAthon! Bullseye helped lead the children to each vendor table to put their emergency kits together. “Target was a great partner to have because one of our goals was for kids attending the event to develop their disaster plan, and Target provided a kid-friendly handbook to help achieve that goal,” said Kondo.

Supporting Community Outreach

Los Angeles County’s OEM also partnered with local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) programs throughout the county, including the San Fernando Valley CERT and Tri-City CERT, which includes members from Gardena, Hawthorne, and Long Beach. These CERT programs and other community partners also registered their events in collaboration with America’s PrepareAthon!

Los Angeles County’s OEM engaged children of diverse communities with hands-on drills and activities during America’s PrepareAthon! Children’s Day on April 30, 2015.Los Angeles County’s OEM engaged children of diverse communities with hands-on drills and activities during America’s PrepareAthon! Children’s Day on April 30, 2015.

The San Fernando Valley CERT conducted a training focused on first aid, splinting, and bandaging, while Los Angeles County’s OEM Director Jeff Reeb and Access and Functional Needs Coordinator Sinan Khan provided information and presentations on whole community disaster planning for seniors and people with disabilities or others with access and functional needs.

In collaboration with the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, Tri-City CERT hosted its second emergency preparedness and safety fair in the City of Gardena, which attracted about 800 attendees from the city and surrounding neighborhoods and communities.

“Our biggest quest is to inspire people to want to be more prepared,” said Nathan Wolfstein, marketing director with Be MorePrepared Inc. and CERT commander in southern San Fernando Valley. “We built a program so that people know when they attend, it will be worth their time, and they will learn and want to return for more training.”

Both the San Fernando Valley and Tri-City CERT events also worked to increase preparedness of non-English-speaking community members. In addition to leading hands-on training, including compression-only CPR and utility shut-off drills, the CERTs provided a wide variety of preparedness resources about America’s PrepareAthon! and the Great ShakeOut! earthquake drills in English, Spanish, Korean, and Japanese.

Realizing Immediate Impacts

Kondo credits the success of the spring PrepareAthon! to the support he received from the many local partners* that engaged their respective communities in prioritizing preparedness, as well as his colleagues at the Los Angeles County OEM. “The spring PrepareAthon! came at the right time and provided that continuity of a process that keeps disaster preparedness on the radar for the cities, county departments, school districts, and special districts,” he said. “They want their residents and businesses to be prepared so that when a disaster does hit, they are ready to recover.”

*Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, especially Mark Ridley-Thomas whose district encompasses Plaza Mexico where America’s PrepareAthon! Children’s Day was held ; City of Lynwood; Area E; Dr. Juan Pablo Ampuero and Margaret Vinci from the California Institute of Technology Earthquake Programs; POWER 106 FM Street Team; Warner Bros Studios “San Andreas;” Dwayne Johnson; Dr. Lucy Jones from the U.S. Geological Survey, John Boal from the Ad Council; Federal Emergency Management Agency; Ellie Wolfe and Kathleen Newton from Los Angeles County Community and Senior Services; John Cjvetkovic from Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services; and Los Angeles County OEM Director Jeff Reeb, Deputy Director Leslie Luke, Helen Chavez, and Public Affairs team Mariela Balam and Jeanne O’Donnell.