Colorado has taken a step towards enhancing public safety for more of its residents with the passing of the Inclusive Language in Emergency Situations (HB23-1237) bill this year. Sponsored by Representative Elizabeth Velasco and Senators Perry Will and Tony Exum, the bill was signed into law by Governor Polis on May 12 in Colorado Springs.
HB23-1237 requires a study to determine what emergency response agencies need to provide emergency alerts in minority languages and what local 911 agencies need to provide live interpretation during a 911 call. The findings are set to be presented to the General Assembly by January 2024, after which follow-up bills will need to be introduced to legislate the final solutions.
The bill recognizes the importance of providing information in multiple languages during emergency situations, especially for Latinos in the central-mountain region where residents are at risk of wildfires, avalanches, floods, and other natural disasters.
According to US Census data, nearly 300,000 Coloradans speak English “less than very well,” yet emergency alerts in Colorado are only available in English. The new bill aims to prioritize the safety of all residents in the state, including the nearly one million state residents who speak a language other than English at home.
As the lead organization providing lobbying support, Voces Unidas played a critical role in advocating for the bill's passage. HB23-1237 was one of our top-tier legislative priorities.
Voces Unidas looks forward to the study results and to continue working with Rep. Velasco and other lawmakers on future legislation to ensure that Colorado leads on public safety by improving language justice in emergency response.
Learn more at www.vocesunidasaction.org/policy.