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Migrants may be missing quake advice

Sep 15th, 2010 | By | Category: Diversity, Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

QuakeEng1MAIN

GETTING PREPARED: Eng Sam given a checklist.

IF you’re in Wellington when the big quake hits, and English is your second language, you could be in trouble.

Non-English speakers may not know the role of Civil Defence and could struggle to understand what to do in a disaster emergency situation.

Eng Sam – who is having lessons to improve his English – says he does not know much about the organisation or disaster planning.

“I don’t know what they do, or who they are,” says the 42-year-old former Cambodian, who is now a New Zealand citizen living in Brooklyn.

“I have seen advertisements on the television, but I don’t really understand them.”

He says he knows about the Christchurch Earthquake, but he would not know what to do if it happened in Wellington.

“I have heard nothing about disaster planning here, and don’t know how to find out about it.”

He does not have a survival kit or a plan of action. However, he believes his children would know about emergency plans from their schools.

The Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management’s website gives advice in nine different languages, but  not in Khmer (Cambodian language).

Civil Defence public education manager Chandrika Kumaran says funding dictates the number of languages covered by this campaign, but non-English speaking migrants can contact the Office of Ethnic affairs’ Language Line, which has a free telephone translation service in 40 languages.

She says  the “get ready, get thru” marketing campaign about making a disaster plan aims to get the message into living rooms with TV and radio advertisements.

“The radio ads in June this year were in Chinese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Samoan and Hindi, which covers most of the languages spoken in New Zealand.”

She says they rely on councils having in-depth knowledge about their local communities, and they work collaboratively to reinforce key messages.

“For many non-English communities for instance, face-to-face communications will be more effective. But with limited resources around the country, this continues to be a challenge for civil defence staff.”

Mr Sam currently has an English language tutor from English Language Partners Wellington, but emergency advice is not offered as a matter of course. It is up to the tutor’s discretion.

English Language resource centre co-ordinator Maddy Harper says that a new booklet with disaster information included may be available soon.

“But in the meantime we are giving out a civil defence emergency checklist to all tutors who visit us, so they can discuss with their learners,” she says.

Civil Defence advice

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management aims to make New Zealand ready for hazards and disasters.

Ms Kumaran says for both English and non-English speakers the challenge continues to be to move them from awareness to taking action to be prepared.

“Research carried out by Colmar Brunton shows 65% of people have done something as a result of radio and television ads, even if it’s just to talk about getting ready with family and friends,” she says.

“But only 24% are fully prepared at home with a plan and emergency items to cope for at least three days.”

Another important initiative is the schools programme, “What’s The Plan Stan?”

The Ministry tries to ensure kids at school are taught about disaster hazards and what to do, and also gives them homework activities.

The resources are sent out free to all primary and intermediate schools in New Zealand.

Those activities can be taken home and worked through with  parents, which can help to improve students’ understanding, too.

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is a Whitireia Journalism student, who enjoys crafting a good story.
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