Virgin Island hurricane survivors who speak a language other than English should know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has many ways to help. One of FEMA’s top priorities is to ensure equal access for all Virgin Islanders affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria, and to ensure that language is not a barrier to receiving federal assistance.
If a person needs to apply for assistance or to speak to a FEMA representative in a language other than English, if a person wants written materials in his preferred language, if someone needs an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, FEMA can help in several ways:
Through the FEMA Helpline: Survivors who call the Helpline at 800-621-3362 will be asked to press “1” for English, or “2” for Spanish. Callers who wish to speak to a representative in another language should remain on the line for an English-speaking operator who will connect them to a translator in the language they request. Survivors in need of an ASL interpreter may also call the FEMA Helpline, using an assisted technology device if needed. Disaster survivors who are deaf, hard-of-hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY may call 800-462-7585 to register. Those who use 711 or Video Relay Service may call 800-621-3362.
At a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC): Many FEMA employees are bilingual or multilingual and can assist survivors in their preferred language at DRCs on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas. All DRC staff can help survivors connect to the FEMA Helpline in any language they request. DRCs can also help arrange for a translator or ASL interpreter to accompany a FEMA housing inspector during a visit to someone’s home. All recovery centers are accessible and equipped with assistive technology tools to accommodate communication accessibility for survivors who need the support. To locate one of the DRCs across the territory, go to http://asd.fema.gov/inter/locator/home.htm.
From Disaster Survivor Assistance (DSA) Teams: DSA teams canvassing neighborhoods make an effort to identify and help survivors who may need assistance in a language other than English. DSA personnel can also arrange for translators to facilitate conversations between FEMA staff and survivors. Some teams on St. Croix and St. Thomas include ASL interpreters.
Informational Leaflets: Disaster registration materials, informational fliers, health and safety tips, and more are being distributed by hand throughout the territory in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole, and they can be provided in other languages or large print upon request. These materials are available at DRCs and from DSA teams throughout the territory.
Through Newspapers, Radio and TV: FEMA has distributed news releases, public service announcements and fact sheets with important information for hurricane survivors to U.S. Virgin Island media outlets in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole.
Via www.FEMA.gov: News releases and other information for survivors that have been translated into Spanish and Haitian Creole are available for survivors to read on FEMA’s hurricane-specific web pages. Visit www.fema.gov/hurricane-irma or www.fema.gov/hurricane-maria and click on a language of choice under the U.S. Virgin Islands header.
On FEMA’s U.S. Virgin Islands Facebook Page: The page at www.Facebook.com/FEMAUSVirginIslands has videos in ASL about how to register for FEMA assistance and more. Furthermore, Facebook users who choose Spanish or Haitian Creole as their primary language in their profile and “follow” FEMA’s Virgin Islands Facebook page, will see some posts with links directly to FEMA’s translated news releases about hurricane recovery efforts.
On the Disaster Assistance Web Page: Spanish speakers can register for assistance and get questions answered on FEMA’s Spanish-language page at www.DisasterAssistance.gov/es. The English-language site is www.DisasterAssistance.gov.