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Cultural and Linguistic Competency for Disaster Preparedness Planning and Crisis Response​

The racial and ethnic diversity of the United States population is increasing. An inclusive and integrated approach to disaster and emergency preparedness, response, and recovery activities ensures that culturally and linguistically diverse populations are not overlooked or misunderstood. Public health officials and emergency managers who are prepared to address the cultural needs of communities affected by adverse events can be instrumental in reducing people’s psychological distress and meeting the community’s needs to recovery effectively. This webpage will introduce and connect you to resources and tools that enhance and address cultural and linguistic competency to help mitigate the impact of disasters and emergency events.

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)

Cultural and Linguistic Competency in Disaster Preparedness and Response Fact Sheet
This fact sheet details the importance of developing cultural and linguistic competency for public health officials and emergency managers to better meet the needs of diverse populations and to improve the quality of services and health outcomes during and after a disaster.  The fact sheet also provides a framework of the five elements of cultural competency within disaster preparedness.

American Indian and Alaskan Native Disaster Preparedness Resource
This tool provides some basic resources and best practices to help disaster behavioral health and emergency responders better understand the general status of tribal behavioral health issues, and also provides information on emergency disaster services and/or organizations that support tribal communities. The goal is to provide a beginning frame of reference and several resources that will promote responders’ cultural awareness, as well as help introduce some of the rich culture, values, and traditions that are so important for respectfully assisting tribal communities.

Office of Minority Health (OMH)

Continuing Education Programs

Think Cultural Health (TCH) is a flagship initiative of the OMH Center for Linguistic and Cultural Competence in Health Care.  TCH is dedicated to advancing health equity at every point of contact through the development and promotion of culturally and linguistically appropriate services.  TCH provides the latest resources and tools to promote cultural and linguistic competency in health care.  As part of these resources, TCH offers four free and accredited continuing education programs to help individuals at all levels and in a variety of professions to promote health and health equity.  The programs offered include:

  • A Physician’s Practical Guide to Culturally Competent Care
  • Culturally Competent Nursing Care: A Cornerstone of Caring
  • Culturally Competency Curriculum for Disaster Preparedness and Crisis Response
  • Cultural Competency Program for Oral Health Professionals

Accessing Health and Medical Services

Behavioral Health


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    • Public Health Workbook: To Define, Locate, and Reach Special, Vulnerable, and At-risk Populations in an Emergency: This document describes a process that will help planners develop a Community Outreach Information Network (COIN) – a grassroots network of people and trusted leaders who can help with emergency response planning and delivering information to at-risk populations in emergencies.  Additional tools are included to provide resources for more inclusive communication planning that will offer time-saving assistance for state, local, tribal, and territorial public health and emergency management planners in their efforts to reach at-risk populations in day-to-day communication and during emergency situations.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
    • A Guide to Enhance Grassroots Risk Communication Among Low-Income Populations: This guide is intended to enhance current risk communication systems at the local and state levels by helping these systems to become more proficient in addressing the needs of low-income populations. The guide serves as a resource for public health and emergency management practitioners who plan and implement emergency and disaster preparedness activities.  A key component of the guide is demonstrating the need for culturally and linguistically appropriate messages as part of effective risk communication systems that address the unique needs of low-income communities.
  • National Disability Navigator Resource Collaborative
  • Pennsylvania Department of Health and Drexel University

Cultural and Linguistic Laws and Policies

  • Executive Order 13166: Executive Order 13166, “Improving Access to Services with Persons with Limited English Proficiency,” requires federal agencies to examine the services they provide, identify any need for services to those with limited English proficiency (LEP), and develop and implement a system to provide those services so persons with LEP can have meaningful access.
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Section 504 is a national law that protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability.  The nondiscrimination requirements of the law apply to employers and organizations that receive financial assistance from any federal department or agency.
  • The Legal Framework for Language Access in Healthcare Settings: Title VI and BeyondThis Journal of General Internal Medicine article describes the federal mandates for language rights in health care, provides a broad overview of existing state laws, and recent legal developments addressing language barriers.  The article also provides an analysis of key policy initiatives that would improve health care for patients with limited English proficiency.
  • Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act: Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.

General Resources

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
    • Emergency Resources for Other LanguagesThis webpage contains flyers, brochures, tri-folds, press releases, and public service announcements tailored to provide disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation information in a number of languages.
  • Healthy Roads Media
    • Translated Materials: EmergenciesThis site contains health education materials in a number of languages and a variety of formats.  They were developed to provide health information for diverse populations in a variety of settings.
  • Georgetown University
    • National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) The NCCC is a cooperative agreement funded as part of the Family-Professional Partnerships Program administered by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health and Human Services Administration. The NCCC provides national leadership and contributes to the body of knowledge on cultural and linguistic competency within systems and organizations.
  • Federal Interagency Working Group on Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Website
  • Office of Minority Health (OMH)
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine