In Humboldt County, information in Spanish is not always readily available. The city of Arcata has taken a step to help improve this situation. Arcata has received a grant that is allowing the city to send alerts out in Spanish through its CodeRed alert system.
According to Nicholas Kasza with the National League of Cities, the Leadership in Community Resilience grant is allowing Arcata to improve its ability to connect with Spanish speakers of the community. Along with $10,000 in funds, the grant also provides Arcata with external experts that can help them with this project.
“I’m just super grateful that there’s already so many people
doing this work, who are so willing to just help
us rise to where we need to be as a city.”
Gillen Martin, a Lead for America Hometown Fellow who works for Arcata and wrote the grant, says that initially, the proposal was about emergency preparedness in general and, sending Spanish alerts out to the community was only part of it, but now, it’s the main focus of the project.
Martin said that the lack of emergency notification outlets in Humboldt was brought to her attention by an El Leñador article that was published last year during the blackouts. After learning about the need for emergency alerts in Spanish, Martin decided to include it in the grant application.
Information about the new Spanish alerts is mostly through word of mouth at the moment. Martin said that they are also relying on community groups like Centro del Pueblo and Cumbre Humboldt to spread the word.
“I’m just super grateful that there’s already so many people doing this work, who are so willing to just help us rise to where we need to be as a city,” Martin said.
The CodeRed alert system is an emergency messaging system that sends alerts and general information to subscribers’ phones, email, text and social media. Originally, alerts would only be sent out in English, but Spanish services have now been added on. Once users sign up, they’ll receive notifications in English and Spanish.
In addition to alerts in Spanish, other emergency preparedness documents are also being translated regarding wildfires, black- outs and an emergency checklist. The city has also added a Google translate feature to their website so people can now view the website in the language of their choice.
“The goal of this program is really to create a robust,
inclusive and equitable culture of emergency preparation
and preparedness in Arcata.”
All translations of alerts and documents are being done by Laura Munoz, the city’s part-time translator and interpreter. She said that despite it being only her, she’s made quite a bit of progress. Munoz also translates some of the city’s social media posts.
“I think the long term goal is to let people feel at home and and working on that, you know, on normalizing different languages in our community normalizing different cultures,” Munoz said.
Communication Specialist and Public Information Officer for the city of Arcata, Catarina Gallardo, says that the more that people are in touch with emergency preparedness, the easier it is for responding agencies to do their work when there’s an emergency.
“The goal of this program is really to create a robust, inclusive and equitable culture of emergency preparation and preparedness in Arcata,” Gallardo said.
Martin, Munoz and Gallardo all expressed that as demographics in Arcata change, providing these services in other languages is certainly a possibility that could be looked into. Martin and Munoz also expressed that they’d like for the city to eventually have a full-time interpreter and translator.
According to Martin, the grant is up next March but the city is looking into additional grants and funding so that it can continue to provide these services.
Currently, the city is trying to spread the word about CodeRed and get people to sign up for it. If people would like to sign up, they can go to the city of Arcata’s website and click on the CodeRed link on the left side menu to receive emergency alerts from the city as well as other general notifications like road closures and water interruptions.
Instructions on how to sign up are available in both Spanish and English.