Red Cross tries to reach Spanish-speakers through smart phone ap

Red Cross tries to reach Spanish-speakers through smart phone apps

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It's a new push to get an under-served population up to speed on severe weather safety.

Last May the storms exposed a major hole in the Red Cross's outreach and response: how they connect with Spanish-speakers.

Oklahomans know not to ignore emergency alerts. But what if you don't understand them? Diana Hernandez moved the the Metro from Mexico and before May 2013 she had never dealt with a tornado.

"What we did is we took a car and started driving around.  Which later on we find out that that was the worst thing you can do," she said.

They weren't the only ones.

Nine of the 23 people who died May 31 were Hispanic, according to the Red Cross, and survivors say safety instructions were lost in translation.

"An entire family was wiped out because they were told get someplace underground no matter what, so they got into a drainage ditch," said Ruben Aragon with the Latino Community Development Agency.

That family was swept away in rising flood waters and drowned.

With a growing Hispanic population in Oklahoma, the Red Cross says it needs to bridge the gap to Spanish-speakers. In Oklahoma City alone, Hispanics make up 18 percent of the population. And Aragon says that number could double every 10 years. While many children easily assimilate, Aragon says the parents and older decision-makers in the family don't always understand English instructions.

"We're working really hard to make sure our message is out there," said Mario Medrano with the Red Cross.

Medrano was specifically hired to link the Red Cross to the Hispanic and Spanish-speaking community. He says they launched all of their emergency apps in Spanish and updated them this week to help users easily toggle between languages.

The apps which include Tornado, Earthquake, Flood, Wildfire, Hurricane and First Aid are a way Spanish-speakers can learn things like what to do 'justo antes' or just before and 'despues' after a storm. Plus they have access to information on 'recuperacion' or recovery and checklists 'para el futuro' for the future.

"I think the last year was a wake up call for everybody," Medrano said.

Aragon agreed.

"Sometimes tragedy makes you respond fast," he said.

Hernandez think the change in technology, and attitude, will help.

"If we read it ahead of time, if Spanish-speaking know it's available now, then we can be familiar with it," she said, flipping through the pages of the app.

She knows now, what she doesn't know could mean life or death.

The Red Cross is also looking for bilingual volunteers.

The smart-phone apps are available in the Apple and Droid app stores. Just search "Red Cross."
 
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