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Multilingual EAS Test in Minnesota Tests Broadcasting

Can EAS systems become truly multilingual?

One of broadcasting’s greatest strengths is its ability to get vital information to its audiences in emergency situations. A problem arises when a significant number of people in those audiences don’t speak English fluently, and emergency information is broadcast in English.

A group of community leaders, broadcasters and Digital Alert Systems are testing a concept in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area that would broadcast information in not just English or Spanish-language but also Hmong and Somali when an EAS alert is released. Representatives of those groups shared some goals and preliminary findings at the 2015 NAB Show Broadcast Engineering Conference.

Edward Czarnecki, the senior director of Strategy, Development and Regulatory Affairs for the Digital Alert Systems division of Monroe Electronics, said that the present EAS system does not adequately respond to the needs of Americans with limited English proficiency.

“This [multilingual capability] needs to be integrated into the EAS system, both in terms of what stations can do and what the emergency management people can do.” Czarnecki says the FCC had issued a request to refresh the record on this issue. “The question is: do we want rules, or do we as a community want to develop best practices that we can adopt on a voluntary basis to help protect life and property?”