November 12th, 2014 2:55 pm ET - Blog Administrator
By: Lillian McDonald
Tech savviness is a hallmark of the millennial generation. They are the first generation to replace landlines, crayons and typewriters with smartphones, laptops, and tablets. They have phased out the communication, education, and work processes of the baby boomer generation in favor of faster more technologically advanced solutions. There is no doubt this rapid adoption of technology is significantly changing the speed and accuracy of how information is processed and shared. Emergency education and communication departments are particularly benefitting from new technology. Apps like mobile GPS storm trackers have dramatically transformed the field of public health and emergency response by increasing public awareness before, during, and after severe weather. Today, smartphone emergency alerts are replacing storm sirens and social media is providing faster disaster coverage than weather radios. Technology is providing faster more pinpointed surveillance of natural and planned emergency events and innovative messaging and communication networks are allowing public health and emergency response officials to better reach larger and more diverse communities.
Minnesota Emergency & Community Health Outreach, or ECHO, is one such program that is using technology to address the emergency preparedness and response needs of their community. By leveraging text to speech technology, ECHO has created Spanish, Hmong, and Somali language warnings and alerts that extend their emergency response to include the immigrants and refugees living in their community. Known as the Minnesota Multi-Language Alerting Initiative this 15-month project led by ECHO in partnership with Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) will expand the emergency response linguistic reach of the current Common Alerting Protocol, which only provides alerts in English.
Through funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, ECHO hopes to use Minnesota Multi-Language Alerting Initiative to lay the groundwork for multi-language emergency warning and alert systems and eventually support national efforts to improve emergency messaging and delivery through the Integrated Public Alert and Warning Systems.
ECHO is a non-profit organization whose founding mission engages limited English proficiency residents in emergency preparedness initiatives. Founded in 2004, ECHO has developed a team of bi-lingual ambassadors in 12 languages that work alongside ECHO to create programs and services that help people be healthy, contribute, and succeed.
The combined community engagement, new technology, and a process for delivering messages supported by cultural context across diverse communities is viewed as a best practice enhancing health and safety initiatives. The first messages are due out this fall, with final outcomes in the spring of 2015. For more information, please contact ECHO’s executive director, Lillian McDonald.