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Amer Abukhalaf - University of Florida. Gainesville, FL, US

Amer Abukhalaf Amer Abukhalaf

Ph.D. Student, Research Assistant | University of Florida

Gainesville, FL, UNITED STATES

Amer Abukhalafa researches disasters and emergency management with a focus on resilience at U.S institutions of higher education.

Biography

Amer Abukhalafa researches disasters and emergency management with a focus on resilience at U.S institutions of higher education. He is also an expert on the importance of including multilingual communications in emergency announcements.

Industry Expertise (2)

Public Relations and Communications

Education/Learning

Areas of Expertise (5)

Multilingual Communications

Hurricane Warnings

American Education

Natural Disasters

Higher Education

Media Appearances (1)

During wildfires and hurricanes, a language gap can be deadly

Grist  online

2021-06-15

When Amer Abukhalaf moved from Columbus, Ohio, to Gainesville, Florida, a couple of years ago, hurricanes were on his mind. He arrived in August, peak season, and only had one month to settle in before Hurricane Dorian struck. As a native Arabic speaker and a PhD student researching emergency management, he did not think the storm warnings would be well-understood by the many migrants in the city. “We have a huge community here that literally has no idea what’s going on,” he said.

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Social

Articles (5)

Integrating international linguistic minorities in emergency planning at institutions of higher education

Natural Hazards

Amer Hamad Issa Abukhalaf, Jason von Meding

2021 Research concerning the behavior of international linguistic minorities at institutions of higher education during disasters is very limited. Many international groups suffer from discrimination based on language (linguicism) during disasters—their stories are not being told, and their voices are not being heard. The main objective of our study is to develop new knowledge about disaster-related behaviors of international linguistic minorities at institutions of higher education with a view toward enhancing overall campus emergency planning. Qualitative and quantitative methods were used to collect and analyze data; 62 subjects from the international community at University of Florida (UF), including foreign employees, international students, and foreign dependents, were surveyed shortly after the hurricane Dorian alert on campus. Additionally, 10 subjects from the UF international community were interviewed. The data analysis sought to provide insights into one main question: What were the key challenges facing international linguistic minorities at UF campus during the hurricane Dorian alert?

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Emergency communications, second languages and hurricane season

ScienceX

Amer Hamad Issa Abukhalaf, Jason von Meding

2021 To what extent is the way we think influenced by the language we speak? That is the core question of a research area called linguistic relativity, also known as Whorfianism. Although there has been growing evidence that almost half of the human perception is processed by linguistic filters, the application of linguistic relativity remains very limited in other fields outside linguistics and psychology. That made us wonder about the possible implications of this within our field of study, emergency communication. In a recently published study, we went beyond translation issues and explored the psychological dimension of local emergency communication in English and compared it to nine other languages. Emergency communication is all about using numbers, movements, expressions, shapes and colors to spread timely information in the form of warnings and directives. But when we decide to have an emergency communication system, we usually adopt a preexisting one, simply because it's cheaper this way! But the real question here is: What, exactly, are we risking by overlooking the linguistic variations? And how significant can these variations be?

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Losing cultural context in emergency communication can be a matter of life and death

Phys.org

Amer Hamad Issa Abukhalaf, Jason von Meding

2021 Can a butterfly in Chicago cause a tornado in Hong Kong? A metaphorical concept called the "butterfly effect" describes the sensitivity of a system to minor changes. The use of this concept has grown significantly in many technical fields, such as information technology and computer science. We wondered if it was applicable to emergency communications. As part of a new study, we interviewed bilingual migrants in Florida. Looking at data from 10 languages, we noticed how minor deviations in translation can cause significant differences in understanding. Such misunderstandings can have catastrophic consequences. Clear language is essential in emergency communication. Being able to distribute disaster information can be a matter of life or death. We've seen how migrant communities are often hit harder than others by disasters, such as in Hurricane Katrina, when many failed to evacuate in part because storm warnings were broadcast mainly in English. Many migrants to the U.S. do not arrive with a clear understanding of basic hazard terms in English, such as "hurricane" and "tornado," that are used by local weather channels and in emergency communications.

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Hurricane warnings and advice can get lost in translation, leaving migrants unprepared

The Conversation

Amer Hamad Issa Abukhalaf, Jason von Meding

2021 Forecasters expect another active Atlantic hurricane season after a record-breaker in 2020, and communities need to be prepared. Clear communications, starting before storms arrive and continuing through the recovery, will be crucial to protecting lives and limiting property damage. Unfortunately, parts of the population are slipping through the cracks when it comes to hurricane warnings and advice. Linguistic minorities – those who understand little or no English – are often at greater risk from disasters and have fewer resources to evacuate or protect their homes. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, many migrants didn’t evacuate, in part because storm warnings were broadcast mainly in English. It’s a simmering public health issue, with clear implications for migrant communities. As part of a new study, we looked at local emergency communication in English and compared it to nine other languages. Our results show how minor deviations in translation could lead to significant differences in understanding. Those gaps could cause linguistic minorities to confuse one natural hazard with another, misunderstand advice and quite possibly lead to the wrong preventive measures.

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Psycholinguistics and emergency communication: A qualitative descriptive study

International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction

Amer Hamad Issa Abukhalaf, Jason von Meding

2021 Psycholinguistics is a field in behaviorism science that was established by George Miller to study the psychological impact of languages on the human mind. Specific research and application of psycholinguistics in emergency communication are limited, where it is often purely analyzed under language barriers. The main objective of this study is to develop new knowledge about Psycholinguistic in emergency communication through highlighting some of the communication gaps that are usually overlooked in emergency planning, and provide some recommendations in order to improve the overall emergency communication systems by reconsidering the way we look at language as an important psychosocial factor that impacts vulnerable communities. Previous research studies in psychology, linguistics, and emergency communication were critically analyzed, and a qualitative methodology, involving semi-structured interviews with ten subjects from Gainesville, Florida, who speak English as a second language, was chosen in order to provide a flexible approach to broadly explore the phenomenon that is being studied. This study provided insights into one main research question: how can different languages influence our understanding of emergency notification?

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Languages (1)

  • English