Obama Administration Considers Using Spanish in Emergency Alerts

Friday, 28 Mar 2014 07:44 AM

By Jason Devaney

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The Federal Communications Commission is considering a plan to broadcast emergency announcements in other languages besides English.

The proposal took hold in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, with several organizations recommending that Spanish versions of emergency alerts be broadcast.

The FCC did not go through the proposal at the time, but the Obama administration is now debating whether this should become law.

The proposal, which was officially submitted by the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council calls for local and state governments to have one Spanish channel available for emergency use. "At least one broadcast station in every market would monitor and rebroadcast emergency information [in Spanish]," the proposal reads.

If the designated station goes off the air during the emergency, another station would have to pick up the Spanish broadcast of the alert. The proposal calls this the "designated hitter" approach.

The council "believes that such a requirement would ensure that non-English speaking populations receive timely access to both EAS alerts and non-EAS emergency information," the proposal says.

The practice would be used for national emergencies, sever weather alerts, and other situations that require information to be communicated to the public. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 37.5 million people living in America speak Spanish as their primary language in the home, as of 2011.

The FCC is considering broadcasting in other languages as well, based on local population demographics.

The proposal mentions that Florida already broadcasts emergency alerts in both English and Spanish.

The FCC is seeking comments and feedback on the plan over the next 30 days.

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