For many Polk County residents, hurricane messages in Spanish are crucial

For the first time ever, Polk County is issuing all of its official statements, including the latest information on Hurricane Dorian, in Spanish.

“We learned a few years ago with Hurricane Irma that we had a big gap in our communications program,” Polk Communications Director Mianne Nelson told FOX 13.

Now press releases, the county’s website, and it’s social media are all in English and Spanish.

It took some effort to make the transition. As staffers left, a special effort was made to hire people with bilingual skills.

Polk’s Communications Department has 18 employees. Three speak Spanish, more than ever before.

Luis Perez, who speaks fluent English, was one of more than almost 50,000 people who relocated to Polk County after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.

He says releasing info in Spanish will benefit many people, including several of his relatives.

“Some of them have been in the states but their English has not improved. For them, information in English is a no, no.”