Hugh McQuaid Photo
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (Hugh McQuaid Photo)

Emergency press conferences from the state armory in Hartford will be translated in Spanish and will include a sign language interpreter as part of an effort to improve crisis communications, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Thursday.

The governor typically holds press conferences in the state Emergency Operations Center during severe weather events like hurricanes or blizzards. On Thursday, Malloy announced that his office will take steps to ensure those emergency messages reach more people

“Recognizing that Spanish is the second most common language spoken in Connecticut, and that many ethnic media outlets are overburdened with translation services during emergencies, we will include Spanish translations of materials during activations of the Emergency Operations Center. That begins immediately,” Malloy said.

The governor said each emergency press conference will also include a sign language interpreter to improve communications with people who have hearing disabilities. Malloy was joined by an interpreter Thursday.

“That’s you,” he told the translator, getting her to stop and laugh.

Sign language translators, like Heidi Catalan who was translating Thursday’s press conference, have been available for previous storm briefings through the state Department of Rehabilitation Services.

The two changes Malloy announced are recommendations from a 36-page interim report of a task force on emergency communications, which was published earlier this month. The report includes Census estimates that suggest more than 2.6 million Connecticut residents speak only English. Spanish-speakers make up the next largest group, with more than 368,000 people. Polish speaking residents are a distant third at around 39,000 residents.

Angel Fernandez-Chavero, a member of the task force, said the effort will help keep residents informed during emergencies regardless of where they are from and what language they speak.

“That’s an important thing, especially when you consider that some of us happen to have some challenges with the federal government, shall we say. So this is an assurance that when it comes to state and local government- that when it comes to our safety, hopefully we can all look to it to be our course and not something we should not go to,” he said.

During the press conference, Malloy noted it had been three years to the day since Hurricane Irene impacted the North Atlantic Coast early in his first term as governor. Malloy is now in a difficult re-election race and polls have suggested that voters believe he handles crisis well.

It’s a quality Malloy’s campaign has touted in its early campaign ads. Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Dora Schriro echoed those ads when she introduced the governor during Thursday’s press conference.

“It is my great pleasure to introduce the man who’s led the state through super storms and unimaginable tragedies, our governor, Gov. Dannel Malloy,” Schriro said.

Thursday’s announcement was part of Malloy’s official schedule and not a campaign event.