For two weeks, SFPUC Public Information Officer Beatriz Flórez Huertas found herself in a new work environment. She was assigned to report into the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
Flórez Huertas shared that when the call for Spanish translators was requested, she immediately raised her hand. It was the reason why she chose to be in public service. As a City-certified translator, Flórez Huertas was assigned to help translate public outreach content and press materials from English into Spanish in the EOC.
“It is in my nature to raise my hand whenever others need help, and I go out of my way to make sure I can help,” she shared. “Luckily, in situations like the one we are facing now with coronavirus, being a public employee has allowed me to apply my passion for helping others to be able to communicate our story to everyone in San Francisco. That makes me proud.”
From a professional and personal standpoint, Flórez Huertas said she believes in how critical it is to keep communities informed about situations like COVID-19, and what decision makers (such as local government agencies) do to address those. “When I was asked if I could help, I immediately said yes,” she shared. “I wanted to do my part so that timely and culturally competent information was available and shared with our community, especially Spanish speakers.”
She shared that as an immigrant herself and living in a diverse community, she noticed that a lot of times people who are highly impacted may not have enough information in their language. She said they either hear bits and pieces of information through the grapevine or more information much later when translated content is finally available. For Flórez Huertas, she believes that non-English speakers deserve to be as well-informed as English speakers.
“I was asked to help with community outreach given that I work in public relations and feel comfortable giving presentations to the public, plus I am fully bilingual in Spanish,” she shared. “That’s a plus when organizations are getting a message across diverse communities. At the EOC, I was able to help with a variety of projects. For instance, I did the voiceover for a video on how to wash your hands, monitored information being shared by media, and translated sensitive information in record times to be distributed to community members.”
For Flórez Huertas, she believes that she works for the community as a City employee. She shared that having an emergency response role is important for her professional and personal growth.
“In this role, I have been able to utilize my skills and learn new things while helping to make the crisis journey more manageable for our community,” she said. “That is priceless. Through this crisis communications, I am contributing to making sure people are informed so they can stay calm, and be strong and resilient. I have been able to utilize my skills and experience in community outreach and bilingual communications, and I have seen the bigger picture of what the City of San Francisco does. We impact so many people’s lives.”