When Tragedy Hits Home: The Effect of Natural Disasters on Interpreters

Written by Ken J. 

Ken is a corresponding ghost writer for loquella.

When a monsoon, hurricane, lansdslide, tornado, blizzard, earthquake or any other forceful weather event strikes an area, the effects are felt across soceity and the economy. Peoples’ lives are affected in many ways including their personal, family, business, social and just their everyday way of living are completely disrupted, and are a mess.


When we see from afar the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey first hitting Houston, Texas and then moving eastward into Louisiana, or the destruction that hurricanes Irma and Maria created, the first thing one thinks about is the safety of those affected and how powerfully cruel Mother Nature can be. What happens to all the interpreters that live in the area?  Obviously their lives and their homes are being affected with the same trauma as everyone; but how do they handle requests for their services when others who cannot speak for themselves are also in need?


This article seeks to explore this very topic and invites anyone with first-hand experience and knowledge of this painful subject to share their experience with the loquella community.


Permit me to pose a few basic questions: Are you skilled in sign language or verbal interpreting? Do you work in the Medical, Legal or some other professional area where your interpretation skills are called upon?  There’s a saying that goes like this: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.  In short, we answer the calling when we’re needed the most.


No one who chose our profession did so because they wanted to market their talents and skills in a disaster environment.  Disaster Marketing 101 is not a subject taught in B-School;  yet the relationships that evolve and are SOLIDIFIED when people help others while truly in-need will last a lifetime. Business marketing types would call that a “barrier to entry” in their business planning analysis….and yes, it’s a terrible way to earn your stripes.


When I was just a young man growing up in my country and just coming into my first professional role, my aunt told me: “People buy things from who they like.  Anyone will throw a bone at you just to get you out of their office, but if they like you then you will be welcomed back.”     So what does this mean?   It means that for those of us who are skilled in our profession, perhaps we can take a step forward and ask: How can I help?


Imagine the fright that is experienced by an individual who cannot hear their rescuers banging on their door or window.  In the case of flooding, when a deaf person’s electronic line of communication is cut off from their community they are at a very vulnerable point.   What about a foreign visitor or an immigrant with little-to-no language skills in the country where the disaster occurs?   Who will help them; especially if they are injured.   This is a real quandry.


As first responders, our medical, law enforcement and legal professionals are on the front lines. They made the commitment to SERVE.  As interpreters who regularly appear in court or who comfort and assist during medical procedures we too can offer our greatest assistance and forge lifelong relationships, partnerships and just plain human kindness with those we interact with on a professional basis.


Don’t forget: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.   Make sure you’re “All In” !


Post-Up  your comments below and share your knowledge.  That’s how we learn.


p.s.  for more reading on this very topic goto:  https://www.bustle.com/p/what-happens-to-the-sick-disabled-elderly-during-hurricanes-2312012


Language Services Associates Aids Volunteer Interpreters in Houston Assisting Those Affected by Harvey


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