Resilience in Anchorage, AK
On November 30, 2018, Anchorage, Alaska, and the surrounding region were rocked by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Although the municipality had a robust response and recovery plan in place, the shock served as an opportunity for city officials to identify gaps in their disaster preparedness strategies. This citywide evaluation revealed the need for improvements in public information and communication, particularly with respect to newcomers and residents from the city’s wide variety of linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
Anchorage is one of the most linguistically and culturally diverse municipalities, with over 100 immigrant, refugee and Alaska Native communities represented. To ensure that new and existing residents with limited English proficiency (LEP) are prepared for future shocks and emergency events, the municipality is applying a locally-developed, successful “peer language navigator” model to improve earthquake and climate preparedness. Through a series of workshops and training sessions designed to develop stronger communication systems and practices with LEP communities, the municipality hopes to engage with immigrant and refugee residents in a culturally relevant manner that empowers these individuals and families in emergency situations.
With NLC’s support, Anchorage aims to include local entrepreneurs and other well-networked community leaders in the disaster and climate resilience conversation. These leaders and business owners can serve as valuable nodes in their respective communities and networks, reaching LEP residents more easily and quickly in the event of an emergency. With a rise in extreme heat events, wildfires, coastal flooding and the ever-present possibility of earthquakes, Anchorage is eager to establish effective communication strategies between the municipality and all its diverse communities so that newcomers and long-time residents alike can be well prepared.