The Role of Translation in Emergency Planning

Last Updated May 7, 2021

When dealing with a massive crisis, one of the main obstacles that emergency operations face is language barriers. Be proactive with emergency planning translation.

Natural disasters are unavoidable. In the past decade, an escalation of earthquakes, floods, blizzards, and a global pandemic can affect corner of the earth.

Unforeseen catastrophes, like the devastating earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador suggest that such events show no signs of stopping.

Emergency planning translation is therefore invaluable in order to communicate procedures to everyone in the area when this occurs once more.

Language Barriers in Emergency Situations

Let’s look at Japan as an example.

According to the Statistics Bureau of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications in Japan, there are over 1.7 million foreigners living in the country.

The top five nationalities of foreigners living in the area include:

  • Chinese (654,777)
  • Korean (501,230)
  • South American (236,724)
  • Filipino (217,585)
  • North American (64,486)

These figures highlight that the chances of encountering language barriers during relief operations are high. Professional Japanese translators can help reach those people more effectively to ensure their safety.

“People in emergency situations regularly report instances in which communication barriers result in feelings of anxiety, fear, frustration, unrecognized pain, and overall loss of control. First responders face an especially critical need for communication. They need to reach people in trouble, often under emergency conditions,” explained Harvey Pressman of the Central Coast Children’s Foundation.

Trends in Emergency Planning Translation

Businesses that specialize in relief operations deploy several innovative tactics to bridge the language gap between workers and victims without the use of language. The most common method involves the use of picture boards, booklets opens in a new window and apps.

This technique offers a pictorial solution to communications for trained individuals to point for a quick assessment. A recent trend in the industry includes the use of temporary tattoos for identification and tracking.

Non-permanent tattoos may prevent a child from getting lost and is most effective for individuals with medical disabilities, such as autism and deafness.

Additionally, the use of animated videos is applicable for victims and foreign volunteers from other countries. Temporary housing units may play videos to guide individuals on various rescue protocols and guidelines. Training videos may also be deployed for foreign aid groups to streamline briefing while approaching the disaster zone. Like the use of picture boards and temporary tattoos, language dependencies are reduced.

Organizations that specialize in emergency situations are not the only establishments that can benefit from these kind of communication materials. With globalization opens in a new window on the rise, hotels and international businesses that support branches in foreign regions may use similar protocols during disasters to ensure their guests and workers are safe and well accounted for.

Hotels around the world have a high percentage of international guests and it is typical for international businesses to employ a generous number of foreign employees that may not speak the local language. Areas in the workplace that may require attention include the following:

  • Near the elevator, suggesting to take the stairs in case of emergency
  • Steps on how to operate a fire extinguisher
  • Contact information of local police stations, hospitals and/or embassies
  • Labels of various “earthquake-ready” safe rooms around the facility.

“Such barriers become particularly dangerous when communication is a matter of life or death, or safety vs. risk. Foundations, advocacy groups and research institutions have warned for years about the severity of not reaching the culturally diverse communities regarding disaster preparedness,” said Kristy Pyke from New America Media.

Professional Translators Facilitate a Thorough Proactive Approach

Government agencies and companies cannot rely solely on animated videos, images and tattoos – they can only communicate so much. Interpreters may be hard to reach on a moment’s notice, particularly when disasters strike.

Providing reliable emergency evacuation services entails thorough preparation before the actual crisis takes place. Behind the scenes, professional emergency planning translation help organizations create translated versions of communication materials for rescue operations.

Accurate translations will reduce time spent surmounting language barriers on the frontline and provide relief to those in need.

Contact Summa Linguae today to get started.

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