Confronted by a disaster, people instinctively revert to their native tongue, thinking and speaking in the language that is most natural to them.
For millions of people, including a third of Los Angeles County residents (US Census Bureau), that language is Spanish.
To address this need, the American Red Cross recently launched six free Spanish-language emergency apps for iPhone and Android devices: Earthquake, Wildfire, Flood, Tornado, Hurricane and Red Cross First Aid. The apps give people local and real-time information for severe weather or disaster threats.
For example, the Earthquake App depicts the epicenter and magnitude of the episode, along with alerts from the US Geological Survey, while the Wildfire App provides a Wildfire News section with statewide links to fire department twitter feeds and websites. State traffic information is also easily accessed via the 511 network click-to-call feature in case of evacuation. The First Aid app offers a 911 call button and simple videos and quizzes to teach vital emergency steps to take before, during and after a disaster.
“The First Aid app is an invaluable resource for Spanish speakers who don’t have CPR First Aid training,” said Juan Carlos Lopez, Los Angeles Region Community Outreach coordinator. “It takes less than a minute to download each app.”
With a 2013 Pew Research Center study revealing that smartphone usage among Latinos is surging, the apps could not be timelier. Coupled with the knowledge that during stressful times, people prefer to receive information in their native language, the Red Cross took advantage of new technology to serve non-English speakers better.
While previously available only if the user had his entire smartphone set to either Spanish or English, the new apps now feature a Spanish toggle that enables users to instantly shift from one language to another.
The apps also contain pre-loaded expert information that is available even if an Internet connection is not.
And they offer a customizable “I’m Safe” alert to be sent quickly to family and friends via Facebook, Twitter, email and text.
“These free Red Cross apps make mobile devices an emergency information lifeline for Spanish-speaking families in our area,” said Jarrett Barrios, CEO, American Red Cross Los Angeles Region.