The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Safety Bureau (PSHSB) has issued a public notice to refresh the record on a 2005 Petition for Interim Relief filed by the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) and others seeking to make emergency information more accessible to non-English speakers.

The MMTC petition, filed shortly after Hurricane Katrina, requested that the FCC revise its EAS rules to provide for “the dissemination of multilingual local, state and national emergency information via the EAS to ensure that non-English speaking persons will have access to the same information as their English-speaking neighbors in an emergency.”  Accordingly, MMTC proposed a series of changes that would: (1) require National Primary stations to air all Presidential level messages in English and Spanish; (2) establish “Local Primary Spanish” (LP-S) and “Local Primary Multilingual” (LP-M) designations and assign LP-S and LP-M stations; (3) require at least one broadcast station in every market to broadcast emergency information carried by Local Primary Spanish and Multilingual stations; and (4) create a fallback plan for broadcast of Spanish and Multilingual information if the primary station loses its transmission capability in an emergency.

The Commission first requested comments on the MMTC proposal in 2005, and again in 2007.  In its public notice, the PSHSB asks whether the MMTC proposal would ensure that non-English speaking populations receive access to EAS alerts and other emergency information, whether the requirements should be geographically limited based on local non-English speaking populations and stations licensed to serve those populations, and whether similar plans currently exist.  The PSHSB also asks about the feasibility of a “designated hitter” approach, where other stations would agree to air multilingual emergency information if the non-English station loses its transmission capability.  Additionally, the PSHSB asks about how the MMTC’s proposed rules are affected by the transition to the Common Alert Protocol.

The Public Notice also seeks comment on alternatives to the MMTC proposal that would achieve the same objective, such as incorporating non-English alerts into state EAS plan rules.

Finally, the Public Notice requests information about how emergency information is distributed to non-English speakers today and what technologies exist to make existing emergency information available to non-English speakers.

Comments are due on April 28, and reply comments are due on May 13.