Washoe County First In Nevada To Test Bilingual Emergency Alerts

Aug 6, 2018

Washoe County is the first in Nevada to simultaneously test emergency alerts in English and Spanish.

Washoe County’s Emergency Alert System is the first in Nevada to simultaneously issue a warning in both English and Spanish. Our reporter Karina Gonzalez has more.

Washoe County Emergency Management is partnering with the state and the Northern Nevada International Center's Language Bank at the University of Nevada, Reno to test the state’s first ever bilingual emergency alerts.

The alerts are recorded in English and Spanish and sent from the Regional Emergency Operations Center to TV and radio stations. The stations will then have the ability to deliver the messages in either language.

Manuel Mederos is a language access specialist at UNR's Language Bank. He said the bilingual messages help save lives.

“If we can get the message out there in a different language, that really makes people take action,” said Mederos. “It really does help law enforcement [and] emergency responders to really allow them to do their job properly and help out as many people as possible.”

While Washoe County Emergency Management is currently broadcasting test alerts in English and Spanish, they are also working with the Language Bank to create preparedness information in other common languages in the area such as Tagalog, American Sign Language, Mandarin and Cantonese through printed materials, public service announcements and a website.

Aaron Kenneston, the Washoe County emergency manager, recognized the need to reach the whole community. He said the tests are initiated through the county and are then relayed by broadcast stations throughout Nevada, allowing non-English speakers to get the information faster.

“Inclusiveness is so important because every single person matters and we want every single person to be able to take the appropriate steps as quickly as possible, and that all comes down to communications and language,” said Kenneston.

The first test was successfully completed late last year and there have been three successful tests since.

Karina Gonzalez is a senior at the Reynolds School of Journalism and works for Noticiero Móvil, a Spanish-English multimedia news outlet for Northern Nevada.