Tuesday, September 5, 2023

HSEM Language Access Plan Updated: New Languages Added to Emergency Alerts Webpage

The City of Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) has updated the HSEM Limited English Proficiency (LEP) & Language Access Plan, and the languages available on the Emergency Alerts webpage - www.austintexas.gov/alerts. This webpage is City of Austin’s primary resource for current emergency information in multiple languages.

During a disaster or emergency, the Emergency Alerts webpage is an official source for critical emergency information from the City of Austin and Travis County. The information on this page is to help people know what hazard is impacting the community and immediate actions to take to stay safe. The type of information changes based on the current hazard, but includes information on Cooling Centers, Warming Centers, shelters, wildfire evacuation information, or any other active hazard. 

“Ensuring our community has access to critical lifesaving information in the language they need is a priority for the City,” said Ken Snipes, Director for the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “Our goal is to get the right information to the right people at the right time.”  

HSEM translates emergency information into priority languages. Priority languages are determined using data from the 2021 American Community Survey (ACS) or US Census data, Austin Police Department (APD), Austin Public Health (APH), Austin Municipal Court, Austin Independent School District (AISD), Capital Metro, Caritas of Austin, Refugee Services of Texas, and Casa Marinella. The City of Austin determines that a language is a priority language when there are 1000 or more people in the population who reported to, "speak English less than very well" in the American Community Survey (ACS) data or US Census. The City updates its data and recommended languages every three years, and the Emergency Alerts webpage was updated in concert.  

Based on the latest census and other sources of data, three additional languages have been added to the City’s priority language lists and two are removed. Tigrinya, Swahili, and Nepali are newly added among the professionally translated languages and now available at austintexas.gov/alerts. Translations in Traditional Chinese and Urdu will no longer be available on the Alerts page. Chinese Simplified will remain an available language. The population of people who speak these languages has increased to meet the Language Access translations threshold of 1000 or more people in the population who reported to, "speak English less than very well" in the American Community Survey (ACS) data or US Census. More additional languages not directly translated can be manually selected on the City’s website using the translations drop down on the top right corner of a computer screen.  

Current Priority Languages & Translated Emergency Alerts  
Emergency information is translated for both Tier 1 and Tier 2 languages, which are determined based on population data. The languages below are listed in order of increasing to decreasing population in the City of Austin boundaries.  

Tier 1 language translations are recommended as part of the Limited English Proficiency Language Access Plan.   

  • American Sign Language* 
  • Spanish 
  • Chinese Simplified  
  • Vietnamese 
  • Arabic 
  • Korean 
  • French 
  • Hindi  

*American Sign Language interpretations are not based on population and are available through the Accessible Hazard Alert System (AHAS) on the Emergency Alerts webpage. 

Tier 2 language translations are encouraged as part of the Limited English Proficiency Language Access Plan. 

  • Pashto 
  • Burmese 
  • Tigrinya - NEW 
  • Swahili -NEW 
  • Nepali -NEW 

Funding to update the HSEM LEP Language Access plan was provided in FY23, and continued funding was allocated for plan implementation in FY24. Next, the public can expect increased outreach to Limited English Proficient communities to help ensure access to critical emergency information. 

Please share the Emergency Alerts page with anyone you know who may prefer to speak a language other than English, especially if it is one of the languages our alerts are translated into. Help us share the graphics and spread the word. 

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