Lahaina Wildfires: Ensuring LEP Communities Get Help After Disaster

A recent news article about the challenges faced by Limited English Proficiency (LEP) communities in the aftermath of the Lahaina wildfires.



Challenges Faced by LEP Communities

The recent wildfires on Lahaina caused significant damage and displaced many residents. However, for those with limited English proficiency (LEP), the challenges went beyond property loss. Many LEP residents struggled to communicate with FEMA agents and other aid organization representatives, making it difficult to access essential support services.

The Role of Interpretation Services

Organizations like Pacific Gateway Center played a vital role in bridging the language gap and ensuring LEP communities received the help they needed. Interpreters facilitated communication between survivors and aid workers, enabling them to understand their needs and access available resources.

The Need for a Statewide Plan

The Lahaina wildfires highlight the critical need for a statewide plan to address the language needs of LEP communities during disasters. This plan should include:

  • A directory of qualified interpreters readily available to assist disaster response efforts.

  • Educational materials translated into multiple languages to inform LEP communities about their rights and available resources.

  • Training for aid workers on effective communication strategies with LEP populations.

By implementing a comprehensive plan, Hawaii can ensure that all residents, regardless of their language proficiency, have equal access to critical support services in times of disaster.

For more details, you can read the original article here: People With Limited English Lost Money And Help In Lahaina Response

HITA's Commitment to LEP Communities

The Hawaii Interpreters and Translators Association (HITA) is committed to advocating for LEP communities and ensuring their voices are heard. We support the development of a statewide plan to address language needs in disaster situations and provide resources to empower LEP communities.

We encourage you to get involved and help us build a more inclusive and equitable disaster response system in Hawaii.

Spanish interpreter on Maui, Carolina Davis, right, worked closely with a Spanish-speaking Lahaina resident who had to leave her home for three months with her husband and children after the fires. Davis said providing language access is essential to ensuring everyone affected by a disaster is able to access the resources they need. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2024)