Language and literacy is a crucial part of communication in the modern world, as it serves a medium of interaction and delivery of information. In a disaster or an emergency situation, effective communication between emergency victims, witnesses, and first responders is especially important, as it enables a smooth delivery of humanitarian assistance (Hadley, 2015). On the contrary, the challenges of language and literacy barriers pose serious implications to emergency providers and other first responders of a disaster or an emergency. Language and literacy barriers in an emergency or a disaster situation can hamper access to life-saving services. Functioning of the US emergency services can be taken as an example, as they process significant number of calls from immigrants or refugees who do not speak English.
Thus, emergency responders at Waterloo, Iowa, encounter with the widening language division as they handle emergencies and aid response for growing refugee numbers, mainly Burmese, settling in the area (Hadley, 2015). Language barriers hamper disaster response activities of all parties involved, from dispatchers who maintain the emergency hotlines to the specialists submitting reports, and the concerned public trying to pass information with little or limited knowledge of the language used.
Alongside with Burmese, language diversity of Waterloo population includes French, Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, Vietnamese and Spanish. Dispatchers stationed there receive over six calls per day in foreign languages, which seriously obstructs emergency services due to limited interpretation resources. The Catholic Charities' organization approximates that more than one thousand refugees are illiterate (Hadley, 2015). The effects of these barriers are adverse. The injured cannot convey specifics of their conditions, thus, medical or other needed assistance can be delayed significantly.
To conclude, language and literacy are very significant as they enable fluent communication, especially between first responders and victims in an emergency situation. The language and literacy barriers adversely affect an assistance delivery. In case emergency dispatchers cannot understand the language being used by a caller, identifying the location and providing assistance to such people becomes difficult. Specifics of a condition may be lost if the responders are unable to diagnose a victim who cannot speak a language understood by the responder. Thus, it is crucially important to engage interpreters and develop an effective communication within services, as well as to take measures for refugees English language teaching.