CDC Emergency Partners - Emergency Communication and Limited English Proficiency

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February, 2018

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CDC's Emergency Partners newsletter provides updates, resources, and useful tips to subscribers interested in emergency preparedness and CDC's emergency responses.

Don't keep this great resource to yourself! Please share it with your colleagues and networks. If you would like more information on Emergency Preparedness and Response, visit CDC's Emergency Preparedness & Response website.

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  • There are at least 350 languages spoken in U.S. homes (2009-2013 data).
  • People who have limited English proficiency can be found in all 50 states (2014 data).
  • About 65,00 people in the U.S. who have limited English proficiency speak Navajo or another native North American Language (2009-2013 data).

Tips for Reaching Limited English Proficient Audiences in an Emergency

A woman and man shake hands in the foreground while two women stand smiling in the background

Effective communication during an emergency can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. This is true whether communicating with those whose primary language is English or with people who have limited English proficiency. People who are limited English proficient (LEP) are those who “do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English” (

People who are LEP can be found throughout the United States and when it comes to planning for, responding to, and recovering from disasters, considering their needs can help ensure a better emergency response. Below are some tips from our colleagues at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for reaching LEP communities in emergency preparedness, response, and recovery.

  • Establish policies and procedures that include language access in your emergency plan.
  • Identify the language groups in your area.
  • Ensure LEP individuals can access your programs and services.
  • Conduct outreach efforts.
  • Include LEP individuals and language access issues in training,
  • Provide notifications, warnings, and other information in the languages of the affected communities.
  • Plan for language access needs as part of survivor care.
  • Do not rely upon children as interpreters and translators.


For more information on how to carry out these recommendations and where to find tools to help take action, see Tips and Tools for Reaching Limited English Proficient Communities in Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery. 


What Languages Are in My Community?


Three pie charts showing some of the languages spoken in Kentucky counties


Use the language mapper to learn more about which languages are spoken in your community.

Zika Update - New Analysis of US Zika Birth Defects Surveillance Data

CDC published a new report describing findings from 2016 Zika Birth Defects Surveillance data. Researchers examined approximately 1 million birth records from 15 states and territories and found about 3 out of every 1,000 babies born had a birth defect strongly linked to Zika, and a 21% increase in the birth defects most strongly linked to Zika in areas with local transmission in the second half of 2016 when compared to the first half of the year. The results from this study emphasize our continued need to collaborate to protect mothers and babies.

Read the report here.


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