The American Red Cross is launching a series of Spanish-language smartphone apps that officials say will help keep families safe when natural disasters are on the way.
The disaster preparedness apps will give Red Cross workers a new tool to reach Oklahoma’s growing Spanish-speaking community before, during and after natural disasters, said Ken Garcia, a spokesman for the Red Cross of Central and Western Oklahoma.
Five of the six apps offer real-time information about disaster threats in their area, Garcia said. Those disaster-preparedness apps cover hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes and floods. As hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes and floods approach, apps give users information on how to stay safe, he said. They also tell the user when the emergency has passed, he said.
A sixth app gives the user access to first aid information, including instructions on how to perform manual CPR, he said.
English-language versions of the apps have been available for some time, Garcia said, but they weren’t available in Spanish unless the user set his or her phone’s language mode to Spanish. The new apps allow the user to switch easily back and forth between English and Spanish, he said.
The need for an effective way of reaching Spanish-speaking residents came to light during the tornado and subsequent flooding that struck the Oklahoma City area on May 31, 2013. Nine of the 23 deaths in the disaster came from Oklahoma’s growing Guatemalan community. Five of those killed were children, including a 17-day-old infant.
A National Weather Service assessment report released in March highlights the challenge of reaching residents who don’t speak English. The report notes that a large number of Spanish- and Vietnamese-speaking residents in Oklahoma may not be able to understand warnings.
Although the apps were developed on a national level, Garcia said local Red Cross officials planned to use them as a part of a larger effort to connect with Spanish-speaking residents in Oklahoma City. The organization’s local chapter recently hired a Spanish speaker, and officials have been at work in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods in Oklahoma City, talking to residents about how to prepare for disasters, Garcia said.
“We knew that we needed to get out there into those Hispanic communities, and that’s what we have done,” he said.
Each of the six apps are free and available for iPhone and Android devices. They can be found at RedCross.org/SpanishApps or RedCross.org/AppsenEspanol.