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Bilingual Conventions Kickoff Meeting: Transforming Hurricane Risk Communication for Spanish-Speaking Communities

Written by: Isabella Rico (research student)
Date: November 1, 2023
Tropical Storm

On October 2, 2023, the research project ‘Hurricane Naming Conventions and Bilingual Audiences: Characterizing Spanish Speaking Broadcast Meteorologists’ Challenges Communicating Multiple Hazards in Landfalling Tropical Cyclones’ (NOAA SBES Grant) held a virtual kickoff meeting hosted by PI Jen Henderson (Texas Tech University -TTU-), co-PIs Erik Nielsen (Texas A&M) and Rodolfo Hernandez (TTU). The study focuses on how bilingual (SPA-ENG) broadcast meteorologists in the U.S. communicate compound hazard risks to Spanish-speaking communities in the U.S., mainly when facing inconsistent messaging that can potentially harm the integrity of these audiences. During the call, a group of ten project collaborators from different sectors (public, broadcasting, and academia) were informed about the purpose and methods of the study, the collaborative path of data collection, and research to operations (R2O). According to PI Henderson, the participation of collaborators would allow the research group to “better understand what is useful and usable to them and helps with buy-in when we implement our research.” This collaborative approach acknowledges the significance of the weather community’s participation and the commitment to achieve meaningful results in different sectors. Several collaborators are participating in the research efforts led by the research team, including: Stephen Bieda, NWS Headquarters, NOAA; Tyra Harris, NWS Office of Dissemination Social Science and DEIA Lead; Nelly Carreno, Chief Meteorologist, Univision (Dallas); Jaisol Martínez, WHDH (Boston); Cecy del Carmen, Telemundo-NBC (New England); Pablo Sánchez Núñez, NBC Universal Telemundo Enterprises, (Houston), Orlando Bermudez, Multimedia Assistance in Spanish (MAS) Program Leader; Krizia Negron-Hernandez, NWS Language Program Lead; Joseph Trujillo, Chair- AMS Committee for Hispanic and Latinx Advancement; Mariel Ruiz, ABC-Dallas.

Project Overview

Spanish-speaking communities have been at risk regarding hazardous weather due to inconsistent guides for translating warnings to different Spanish-speaking audiences. Across the nation, there is a need to understand better how different Latino nationalities, dialects, and sociodemographic characteristics expand or limit the effectiveness of weather warnings and messaging. One of the project's goals is to analyze what challenges bilingual broadcast meteorologists face when receiving and communicating information produced by the National Weather Service -NWS- and Weather Forecast Offices -WFOs-. In particular, the multiple hazard messages issued for tornadoes and flash flooding during landfalling tropical cyclones (LTCs). In that context, the research team will adopt social science instruments such as observations, focus groups, and a survey to understand how bilingual broadcast meteorologists interact, communicate, and inform Latino populations in the U.S.


During the meeting, the thoughts of the collaborators were voiced, and several discussion points were made. The research group learned that projects and groups are currently working on language accessibility and evaluation of standardized messaging in multiple languages that affect multi-lingual communities. Jaisol Martinez, a broadcast meteorologist working in the Chicago media market, suggested that the project share weather-related content with Spanish-speaking communities in places like schools where information can be distributed through children and youth communicating with their parents. The collaborators also voiced their interest in sharing databases and datasets on research conducted previously that could help the project move forward. The meeting is an essential basis for the coming planning and design phases for the research team.   

Additionally, the study aims to facilitate broadcast meteorologists in effectively communicating with the bilingual community by expanding the R2X framework and understanding ways to reach this audience. Ultimately, this could decrease their risk from compound hazards and enable broadcasters to establish a structure that works just as it would for those who speak English. The Kickoff meeting marks the beginning of supporting both the bilingual community and broadcasters in addressing compound hazards.  “Conducting our work with an ethical commitment to bilingual and Spanish language processes and outcomes is so important. It shows we’re not merely paying lip service to our grant goals. We want to continually practice what we say we value.” PI Henderson stresses. Emphasizing the value the research team will continue to uphold. The path ahead holds many more opportunities for learning and understanding the problems both face when communicating and receiving information.

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