In certain areas of the United States there are large segments of the local population that do not speak English.
In 9-1-1 Call Centers (PSAP’s) today, it is common practice to have a third party language translation service under contract. For example, a 9-1-1 call is received and the call taker does not speak Spanish. It is a simple process to add a Spanish speaking translator to the 9-1-1 call.
Most translation firms offer this service for numerous languages.
We recently held a meeting with Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to discuss the implementation of Text to 9-1-1 on a regional basis. Paul McLaren, of West Safety Services (formerly Intrado) provided a technical overview. I was surprised to learn that -Today- it is not possible to ‘bridge in’ a third party translation service to a 9-1-1 text ( or any third party). There were a number of reasons identified, technical limitations, security, etc.
Here in South Florida, launching an ‘English-Only’ 9-1-1 Text service will need careful consideration and approval.
What would happen if you were working a shift in a 9-1-1 center and, on your screen, you receive a text in a foreign language?
If you have plans to move forward with a Text to 9-1-1 solution in your area, it will be important, in today’s scenario, to educate the public on language availability. You also need an emergency ‘contingency plan’.
Text can certainly be a useful tool, it is important that we understand all of the facts prior to implementation.