Early Warning System for Richmond Area Laotian Community Funded by ARB and Bay Area District
For immediate release
SACRAMENTO – The California Environmental Protection Agency's Air Resources Board (ARB) and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) today announced their partnership in funding an emergency early warning system to warn Richmond-area Laotian residents of dangerous refinery leaks or transportation-related hazards.
"The emergency warning system is designed to protect residents when there are industrial or roadside spills or accidents. Our partnership with the Bay Area district is one that will have a positive affect on the Laotian-speaking community in Richmond," said ARB Board Member Mark DeSaulnier.
During a chemical incident, residents can be exposed to toxic gases that can have short and long-term health consequences. Since the early 1990s, Contra Costa County has administered an early warning system made up of sirens and automated telephone calls to affected area residents so that their health will be minimally compromised in the event of a chemical emergency. Residents may not hear the sirens while indoors, so the telephone "ring down" is designed to reach people who may not be aware of a problem while in their homes. In the event of a chemical incident, residents receive the automated telephone call and recorded message, giving details about the incident and instructions to shelter indoors while staying tuned to the television or radio for further instructions. Currently, the telephone warnings are only broadcast in English.
The ARB is supporting the system with $100,000 along with the BAAQMD's $40,00 for a pilot project that will bring four Laotian dialects into the system. The County hopes that the project will be the start of a trend toward including many more foreign languages in the warning system call-outs, addressing the needs of non-English speaking Richmond-area residents. The County will hold workshops to collect information from Laotian community members that wish to participate, as well as teach them how to prepare themselves for a chemical incident and shelter in their homes during an incident.
The County hopes that the funded pilot project will foster a good relationship with the Laotian community and lay the groundwork for outreach to other diverse communities in the area.
"Addressing the needs of Richmond's non-English speakers is an important step in the emergency warning system's long-term success, " said DeSaulnier. "The ARB's commitment to diverse communities is apparent in today's action."